Main Dishes Recipe Index

Arabic Stuffed Bell Peppers (Fil Fil Mahshi)


Time moves swiftly, doesn’t it? I could cite every cliche in the book about how quickly 2012 is firing along; faster than a speeding bullet and all that.

As if we didn’t have enough on our plate with wedding planning, work and study, the Australian Man and I have added two more hats to our plates. Hard hats, to be exact.

After an adrenaline-fuelled few weeks, we are now the excited owners of a 1970’s apartment around the corner, just begging for a full renovation. New kitchen, here we come! Stay tuned for plenty of before-and-afters. Maybe even the occasional cry for mercy.

But just before that, we hosted two very VIP guests: my parents, visiting from the States. For three glorious weeks in February, we skulked through laneways, ducked into intricate arcades, critiqued coffees, and let ourselves be spoiled by many a spread fetched from Queen Victoria Market. After 18 months apart, it was beyond needed.

The crowning moment came when, nearly at the end of her trip, mom suggested we spend some time together in the kitchen. The result was one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes: fil fil mahshi. Plump, juicy bell peppers filled with savory spiced meat and rice.

I felt quite spoilt that she dedicated one of her last afternoons in Melbourne slicing and stuffing these peppers with me, nary a parental comment (even from dad) about maneuvering about our tiny apartment kitchen.

As with any family recipe, fil fil mahshi includes approximate measurements (a pinch here, a pinch there) and takes a few tries to get it just right by your own palate. A few inside tips from my family to yours: first, don’t be afraid to over-spice. fill the peppers loosely, to give the rice plenty of room to expand and stay fluffy. A light shake of each pepper after stuffing will do the trick.

Serves 6

6 medium-sized red or yellow bell peppers
1 cup short-grain (white) rice
5 pre-cut beef or lamb scaloppine (schnitzel)
1 can chopped tomatoes plus 2 fresh tomatoes OR 5 fresh tomatoes, chopped
Generous sprinkle each: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom

Generous pinch of saffron
Generous pinch of turmeric2 tbsp dried mint
Canola oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional but highly recommended: 6 lamb chops

Using a small paring knife, cut around the green stem of each pepper to create a circle just wider than the stem. Remove the seeds and pith from each pepper, replace the top of each one, and set aside.

Slice each piece of meat into long, thin strips, and then again crosswise to create small, 1cm pieces.

In a large bowl, make the hashweh: combine the rice, chopped meat, spices (generous sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom), the saffron, turmeric and 1/2 cup water to moisten. Drizzle in approximately ⅓ cup canola oil – or enough to coat each grain and piece of meat. Mix well, using clean hands, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss together again.

On a separate plate, season both sides of the lamb chops with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, salt and pepper. Place them in a single layer at the bottom of the pan.

Using your hands, loosely fill each pepper ¾ full with the rice mixture. Shake the peppers back and forth as you fill them to keep the mixture from compacting. Arrange the peppers in the pot, tilted diagonally (at a 45-degree angle). This will help the sauce enter each pepper to cook and season the rice.

Spice the tinned and chopped tomatoes with additional cinnamon, cardamom, salt and pepper, and pour over the peppers. If you have any remaining rice mixture, sprinkle it around the peppers. Add enough water to reach halfway up the peppers, then sprinkle a generous handful of mint over the top.

Cover and bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, periodically basting the peppers in the sauce, until the peppers are tender and the rice is cooked through.

Serve immediately with minted yogurt and salad. 

Mom 🙂

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  • Reply Thelittlestanchovy 19/03/2012 at 1:25 am

    Congratulations on the new place! I am looking forward to watching the process of the new kitchen! 
    These peppers look so colourful, comforting and full of flavour. Right up my alley!

  • Reply Yasmeen 18/03/2012 at 11:02 am

    Oh, thank you! Many more family recipes to come in the near future.

  • Reply Yasmeen 18/03/2012 at 11:02 am

    I can’t wait to squeeze you in June xxx

  • Reply Yasmeen 18/03/2012 at 11:02 am

    Thanks Agnes! We’ll see how exciting the new apartment is when we’re knee deep in sawdust, ha. 

  • Reply Yasmeen 18/03/2012 at 11:00 am

    No, thank YOU! Come on over, I’ll teach you how to do them 🙂

  • Reply Yasmeen 18/03/2012 at 11:00 am

    Welcome and thank you for the kind words, Marie-Anne! We stuff zucchini as well – pretty much anything. I’m loving the emmental, though. That’s new to me, and a must-try 🙂

  • Reply Marie-Anne 18/03/2012 at 9:08 am

    Congrats on the new flat and on your parents coming from halfway around the world to enjoy some quality time in Australia 🙂 I’d like to thank you for commenting on my blog, it really means a lot, especially coming from such a dedicated and talented cook such as you. I’ve discovered so many new things and I just need to try all of them. In France, we also stuff bell peppers (and zucchini) with beef, rice and emmental (for the French touch), but yours are so much full of flavour and colour. Thanks!

  • Reply Winston 17/03/2012 at 8:47 am

    Love this post! It’s so filled with warmth and joyful news, aww… Congrats on them all! Your mum is so young and classy! What I love most about your blog is that it introduces me to SO many new things. I learn so much each time I click on to your awesome space. I’ve never stuffed my bell peppers and can imagine how they’d be bursting in flavours. Gotta make them for my family one day, thanks Yas =D

  • Reply Candace 17/03/2012 at 12:14 am

    It’s so nice to see you back here posting again. I’ve missed you! I think it’s fantastic that you had a chance to visit with your parents and cook with your beautiful mum. These peppers are gorgeous. I’ve been on a stuffed pepper kick of late so I am loving these so much. Congratulations on your new apartment! I can’t wait to see the photos.

  • Reply Epicurea 15/03/2012 at 4:32 pm

    mom’s and their food is simply the best isn’t it! these peppers make me drool over my computer..

  • Reply Agnes 15/03/2012 at 4:27 am

    Ooooh new apartment – so exciting. And these peppers look delicious.

    (PS: your mum is gorgeous!)

  • Reply Hannah 15/03/2012 at 2:33 am

    Everything coming up roses!! Family, wedding, new house… what a shining 2012 you’re having/will have 🙂

  • Reply Vicki Bensinger 14/03/2012 at 8:18 pm

    Wow the flavors and spices of your stuffed peppers sound amazing. I will try your version the next time I make some.

  • Reply Rosa May 14/03/2012 at 6:31 pm

    They must taste wonderful! Stuffed veggies and ppers are so scrumptious.



  • Reply Nuha 14/03/2012 at 3:24 pm

    where do i start?!  first off, mabrouk on the new house!!!!!!! eeeek!!! so excited for you!!! i cannot wait to follow along and see your gorgeous renovations 🙂 second off…i made this just last week – i knew we were kindred spirits 🙂  and FINALLY,  how gorgeous is your mom?  love her a lot!

  • Reply mcj from turmericnspice 14/03/2012 at 2:59 pm

    your mom’s beautiful !! love the color of the dish …..thanks so much for sharing !! these clicks makes me miss my mom – nothing more wonderful God has made than mom 🙂 

  • Reply Bel Jo 14/03/2012 at 11:59 am

    Both you and your mom are gorgeous – because she has fab recipes like this and because you’re happy to share with us! Can’t wait to hear more about you new place, too.

  • Reply leaf (the indolent cook) 14/03/2012 at 11:27 am

    Again, congrats on the apartment!
    I agree it really is a pleasure cooking with family. And your mom is pretty! 🙂

  • Reply Mrs_Mulberry 14/03/2012 at 11:14 am

    Delish!! Lovely story too, really enjoyed this post : )

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