Stuff it!

Processed with Moldiv

Given that my partner is half Lebanese, we often eat Arabic food.  I was looking through some middle eastern cookbooks and it struck me how many of their recipes consist out of stuffed vegetables.  From potatoes, to courgettes (zucchini), peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, onions and even cabbage gets filled with all kinds of deliciousness.  The fillings can be rice, ground meat or chicken mixed with spices, fresh herbs and nuts.

Last weekend I made stuffed potatoes. Traditionally they are eaten with rice but even for a carb-o-holic like myself this is too much of a good thing so I serve it with a simple tomato and cucumber salad.

It’s the spices that provide the middle eastern flavor: in this version I used Bokharat, an Arabic 7 spice mix.  You can find it in most middle eastern shops, but you’ll also find the recipe on my blog if you fancy making it yourself or can’t find it anywhere.

Ingredients (makes enough for 4 people)

  • 1 kilogram of potatoes, preferably new potatoes but ordinary ones work as well
  • 2 tablespoons of Arabic 7 spices
  • ground meat (beef or lamb)*
  • 1 large onion cut up in small pieces
  • pine nuts
  • 1 liter of peanut or sunflower oil for frying
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic grated or cut up in small pieces

*if you want to make a vegetarian version you can replace the ground meat with cooked rice


  • Peel the potatoes.
  • Empty out the potato: you can do this which ever way you find easiest.  You can buy a special tool for this however personally I find that a small teaspoon works best.  Don’t use a knife, the potatoes are slippery and you risk cutting yourself.
  • Pour the oil in a deep pot and heat it up.  To prevent any overflow, make sure you do not fill the pot more than half.  You can check if the oil is hot enough for frying by putting a small piece of bread (or potato) in it and it should start frying immediately.  If that is not the case, the oil is not hot enough yet.
  • Fry the potatoes in the oil. The goal is not to get them golden brown and crispy, fry them gently until you start seeing bubbles on the outside of the potatoes and they have slightly softened.
  • Let the fried potatoes cool down on some some kitchen towel.
  • Take a pan and over medium heat fry half of the onion mixture together with the half of the chopped garlic and all of the pine nuts until the onions are soft and the pine nuts are golden brown.
  • Add the beef to the onion/garlic/pine nut mixture and fry it.
  • In a separate pan fry the remaining onion and garlic and add the chopped tomatoes.  Bring the tomato mixture to the boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Fill the potatoes with the meat mixture.
  • Taken an oven dish and poor the tomato sauce into it.  Arrange the potatoes in the dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 200°C.
  • Take the dish out of the oven and let cool slightly.  Then take half a lemon and squeeze it over the potatoes.

That’s it! Let’s eat!



Arabic 7 spice mix

Arabic 7 spice mixI really like this spice blend and use it very often.  It gives a lovely deep and warm flavor to food without being overly hot.  It works especially well on roasted meats or vegetables but you can use it as well in stews, soups or sauces.

In Brussels we are quite spoiled, we have several middle eastern supermarkets where we can buy the spice mix ready made.  However I have noticed that the taste is far better when I make it myself.

If you want to have a go at it you just need to respect the proportions listed below (if you want a bigger batch, you just double or triple them).  I recommend starting off with whole spices which have been dry roasted which you then put in the coffee blender.  However you can also use the spices already in their powder form.  Store the mix in an airtight container for a period of maximum 6 months.

There are variations on this spice mix, depending on the country they are used in, however I find that the basic flavors are the same no matter what the variant is.

The ingredients for the Arabic 7 spice mix are:

  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamon

Don’t use spices that have been lingering in your cupboard for months – spices loose a lot of their punch and flavor over time.  And one last thing: this spice mix pares very well with the sharpness of lemon juice.  So when I roast meat or veggies that have been coated in this spice I always squeeze the juice of half a lemon on it before serving.  I really boosts the flavor.

I hope you enjoy it!