“I have never had better stuffed peppers, the spices made all the difference, and they looked so beautiful on the table!’ ~Laura
Spiced Lamb and Couscous Stuffed Peppers ~ this classic comfort food gets an exotic makeover with ground lamb, lightly spiced with cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and nutmeg, along with fluffy couscous to replace the traditional rice. The aroma is swoon-worthy!
I love to create recipes where animal proteins, in this case lamb, aren’t the star of the show, but part of a cast of delicious characters all working together in unison. I love to put meat and plant based foods on equal footing, and here the spiced lamb is just one of the many flavors that make up this dish. I get lots of inspiration from other cultures where meat is treated more like an accent rather than the main focus of a meal. In these stuffed peppers 12 ounces of ground lamb stretches easily to feed eight.
My beautiful red peppers are stunning to begin with, the color really pops. But they get even more brilliant after cooking. Best of all, they keep their structure and their ‘bite’, never getting mushy. I purposely don’t pre-cook them like so many stuffed pepper recipes advise. Tenting the pan in foil keeps enough steam in to tenderize the peppers while keeping them firm.
Couscous is a great binder for stuffed peppers because it stays fluffy, unlike traditional rice which can get starchy and stodgy. I like to add pine nuts, (toasted first!) and currants for a punch of texture, flavor and sweetness. You can substitute dried cranberries for the currants, and walnuts for the pine nuts if you have trouble finding them.
Feta cheese gives the filling for these stuffed peppers a nice sharp tangy element.
I make sure to mound the filling into each pepper because I know it will shrink down a little as it cooks. I want each pepper to be a satisfying meal in itself, no skimpy peppers for me.
Ingredient spotlight: Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranate molasses is an amazing ingredient that I won’t be without. It’s basically pomegranate juice that has been reduced down to a thick syrup, and the flavor, as you might imagine, is explosive. It adds a pop of sweet/tart flavor to so many dishes from dressings and dips to all kinds of sauces and marinades. It needs no refrigeration and lasts a long time in the cupboard.
Hint: You can make easily make your own homemade pomegranate molasses!
Spiced Lamb and Couscous Stuffed Red Peppers
- 6 -8 red bell peppers, look for similar sizes and shapes so they cook evenly
- 12 ounces ground lamb
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- olive oil
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups cooked couscous, I cook mine in chicken stock for extra flavor
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- pomegranate molasses, optional
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes, or any plain tomato sauce
Yogurt mint sauce
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Slice the tops off of your peppers and reserve. Remove the seeds and veins from the insides of the peppers.
- Brown the ground lamb and the spices in a skillet, breaking apart the meat as you cook. After it is well crumbled and no longer pink, remove it to a plate.
- Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan and sauté the onions and garlic for a few minutes, until translucent. Remove to the plate with the lamb.
- Add the pine nuts to the pan and toast, stirring almost constantly, until they turn golden. Add a touch of olive oil if the pan is dry.
- Add back the meat and onions to the pan, along with the cooked couscous, currants, and feta. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to drizzle in a little pomegranate molasses, if you have some, but it’s optional.
- Pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish that just fits your peppers. Arrange the peppers on top. Fill each pepper with the filling, pressing down slightly to insure each one is completely filled. Mound the filling up a bit at the top. Replace the tops loosely on the peppers.
- Cover the casserole dish and peppers with a sheet of foil. Crimp the foil along the sides of the pan so the peppers can steam. Bake for about one hour and 20 minutes, removing the foil for the last 20 minutes. The peppers should be tender and slightly browned.
- Serve with yogurt mint sauce on the side.
- To make the yogurt mint sauce, blend the ingredients together in a small food processor.