What is mahshi?
Mahshi is a dish of vegetables stuffed with ground beef and rice, that are cooked in a tomato and cumin sauce.
Most often, Lebanese summer squash (kusa) is used for this dish, but there are a few variations based on squash, eggplant, bell peppers, even tomatoes or potatoes.
Meat-based stuffing is not mandatory, and many versions based on an exclusively vegetarian stuffing exist. The versions which are only based on vegetables are served cold or rather at room temperature, these are dolmas.
What is the origin of mahshi?
The name mahshi can be translated as stuffed squash. In Croatian and Serbian, this dish takes the name of punjene tikvice. In Albania, it is called kungulleshka të mbushura. Finally in Turkey, it is called kabak dolmasi.
In Egypt, mahshi is present on all banquet tables for weddings, family reunions and especially during the celebrations of the month of Ramadan.
As this dish is not expensive, it is without doubt one of the most popular in Egypt. It is often found at family gathering meals across the country. Meat free for the poor and with meat for the wealthy.
How to make mahshi
To prepare a good mahshi, it is essential to obtain Lebanese summer squash (kusa), a variety of white zucchini (summer squash).
They are hollowed out using a manakra, a tool similar to the apple corer. The stuffing with ground meat is prepared by sautéing an onion and then adding the meat, parsley, cumin and tomato purée.
Ground meat is very common in Arabic cuisine, especially in Egypt. This stuffing is combined with short grain rice. In parallel, the zucchini pulp is prepared in a sauce with tomato.
Mahshi can thus be assembled by filling a Dutch oven with tomato and potato slices which will serve as a base for the zucchini. The zucchini stuffed with rice and meat is placed on top and then the tomato sauce, broth, olive oil and lemon are added.
After simmering for a long time, the zucchini is very tender, the rice fully cooked and the meat very soft. The reduced sauce is flavored with cumin and this dish is ready to be served.
What are the variants of stuffed vegetables?
In the countries of the former Ottoman Empire, these rice and/or meat-based stuffings are found in the famous stuffed vine leaves or in the stuffed cabbage leaves. The attention paid to the preparation of these dishes from an old world makes them particularly pleasing to the eye when they are placed on a table.
The Mediterranean basin has many recipes based on vegetables, it must be said that in these latitudes, the cultivation of these vegetables is not difficult.
In France, in the Nice region, people have pushed the art of stuffing vegetables to the extreme, with artichokes, fennels, cabbage, zucchini flowers, everything can be stuffed and simmered gently.
Lucien Tendret, nephew and biographer of the food critic Brillat-Savarin even gives a version based on lamb and roast chicken, truffles and wild mushrooms, a royal stuffing for plump tomatoes.
According to author Andrée Maureau, stuffed vegetables are “as sumptuous for the eyes as for the mouth”. In France, it is especially the cabbage, which is stuffed with sausage meat or pheasant, it takes in this case the name of chartreuse, a visually exceptional recipe which made the success of the French cooks of the 19th century throughout Europe.
- 1 small onion , diced
- 6 oz. lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons tomato purée
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 cup short grain rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 10 Lebanese summer squash (kusa, light green skin), about 6 inches
- 2 large potatoes , peeled, cut into thin slices
- 2 large firm tomatoes , peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ cup tomato coulis
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable or beef broth)
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and brown the onion.
- Once the onion is translucent, add the ground beef, ¼ teaspoon salt and the cumin. Mix well.
- Brown the meat, then add the tomato purée, parsley and water. Season with black pepper.
- Bring the sauce to a rapid boil, then remove from the heat and pour everything into a large bowl.
- In the bowl, add the raw rice. Mix with the sauce using a wooden spoon. Set aside until the mixture cools.
- Hollow out the zucchini using a vegetable or apple corer. Reserve the inside of the squash.
- In the same Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the inside of the cored zucchini, cut into small pieces and the cumin. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook for 10 minutes over low to medium heat, then add the tomato coulis, parsley, cilantro, and dill. Set aside.
- Once the reserved rice mixture has cooled, stuff the hollowed zucchini with this mixture and reserve the rest.
- Line a very large Dutch oven with tomato and potato slices to cover the bottom.
- Place the zucchini in a single layer.
- Add the rest of the rice mixture to the zucchini.
- Pour the sauce over with the reserved zucchini pieces.
- Add the chicken (vegetable or beef) broth, lemon juice and 5 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Season with salt and pepper again.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and cook covered over medium heat for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the liquid is absorbed and the sauce has a smooth consistency.