One of many stuffed vegetable dishes (mehshi) from the region; this one is most likely Aleppian (Syrian) or Palestinian. It is very simple, with minimal spices (black pepper, a touch of cinnamon). The only difference with the Lebanese-style stuffed veggies is the sauce. The sauce is made with tamarind and water (and lots of garlic). Tamarind is reputed to be excellent for one’s health and is the drink of choice during the Holy month of Ramadan; it is found in ethnic stores, Latino markets, Indian and Arab groceries.
For a vegan version of this dish, use coarse bulgur (previously soaked in hot water 15 minutes) and lentils. The turnip pulp can be used in a soup or pilaf or as a side steamed and buttered.
INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings (main course)
- 2 pounds turnips (pick small to medium ones of similar size)
- Stuffing: 1/2 cup short-grain rice (sushi, Egyptian, Turkish, Italian), soaked in water
- 1/2 pound ground meat (fatty is OK)
- salt, pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup oil or clarified butter
- 1 cup dry tamarind, soaked in one cup of water for 30 minutes (or more)
- 2 or 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste (about 6 cloves, mashed with salt in a mortar)
- Optional: 1 tablespoon sugar or honey or grape molasses
1. Core the turnips, reserving the pulp for a soup or a pilaf or just as a side (steamed and buttered). Mix the meat, rice and spices and stuff the turnips with the mixture.
2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and fry the turnips on all sides till golden; strain the tamaring, pressing on it to extract as much juice as possible. Drain the pot of the extra oil, pour the tamarind and extra water; add the mashed garlic, salt and pepper and a dash of cinnamon. bring to a simmer and let it bubble-up gently for 30 minutes; taste and add a dash of sugar if it is too sour if desired. Serve.
NOTE: Any leftover tamarind (soaked) can be diluted in water with some sugar and a couple of teaspoons of rose water; it makes an excellent drink.