Zucchini Orientali

A simple dish which is popular throughout the Middle Eastern countries, Zucchini Orientali (zoo-kee-nee ory-en-tah-lee) may be served as either a substantial first course or as a light lunch with crusty bread.

4 large courgettes , trimmed and blanched

8 oz. minced beef

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons long-grain rice, washed, cooked for

10 minutes and drained

2 fl. oz. tomato juice

1 oz. butter

1 tablespoon tomato puree

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil or

1 teaspoon dried basil

8 fl. oz. water

Cut the courgettes in half, lengthways. With a teaspoon, scoop the flesh out of each half, leaving a }-inch shell. Discard the flesh. Set the courgette halves aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, com-bine the meat, dill, marjoram, salt, pepper, onion and rice. Stir in 1 table-spoon of the tomato juice and mix the ingredients together until they are thoroughly combined. Very carefully spoon the stuffing into the courgette halves.

In a flameproof casserole, large enough to take the courgettes in one layer, melt half the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, remove the casserole from the heat. Place the courgettes in the casserole, stuffing uppermost.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining tomato juice, the tomato puree, basil and water. Spoon the tomato mixture over the courgettes .Cut the remaining butter into 8 pieces and place one piece on each courgette half. Return the casserole to moderate heat and bring the liquid to the boil. Cover the casserole, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the courgettes are tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife and the rice is tender. Remove the casserole from the heat.

Transfer the courgettes to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately.

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