This is just one epic way to make vegetables more interesting. Fill your peppers up with a delicious turkey and lentil filling, cook it, melt some cheese over it, serve with tomato sauce and you’ll be laughing. This is also the perfect dish to have for leftovers.
I find that cooked peppers (or as we Australians call them, capsicums) have quite a strong flavour. They can even be slightly bitter if you don’t serve them with something else in my humble opinion, which is why filling them up with other awesome ingredients is a wonderful idea.
I think that the tomato sauce is important as well, and if you go without it, you’re missing out on a key component of the dish.
Now let’s get into how to cook these bad boys.
So, green peppers are slightly different to red peppers in terms of flavour. And both are great in their own way. Red peppers have a sweeter flavour and are softer, whereas green peppers are slightly tougher, and have more of a “raw” flavour.
The main difference you need to be aware of in this case, however, is that green peppers take longer to cook than red peppers. I found that red peppers go tender in the oven quite quickly, however as you can see I had a couple of green peppers too. I think that if you cook the peppers for a good hour overall at around 200 degrees C, you’ll get a good result.
Although remember, bell peppers come in all different shapes and sizes. If you’re using red peppers, you should be absolutely fine. If you use green peppers, have a feel to see if they are nice and tender, and if you think that they aren’t quite done, you can put them back in the oven for a little longer.
Why did I add breadcrumbs to the meat?
When you cook the minced meat in the pan, the goal isn’t just to cook it but to brown it too. However, it won’t brown if all the water content spills out of the meat. If this happens, the meat will not fry, it will just boil, and the cheffy saying goes, no colour, no flavour.
There are a number of ways to avoid this problem. The most important thing to understand is that you need to get the pan really nice and hot. I’m talking high heat, hot oil, no messing about. That way, any water content that does spill out of the meat will evaporate before it has a chance to fill up in the pan.
However, another great tip is to add breadcrumbs, when you mix those dry breadcrumbs through the minced meat, it soaks up that moisture like a sponge and keeps it inside. So keep that in mind for whenever you make any dish involving minced meat or meatballs.
I also didn’t season the raw turkey. Remember, salt draws moisture out of ingredients, so I only season the filling with salt and pepper to taste at the end.
One last point, it’s also important that you don’t overcrowd the pan, as doing so can also result in too much water content coming out of the meat. So if you need to fry the meat in 2 batches, it’s definitely worth doing so.
What to serve with this dish
Ok, so obviously there is no “best side” to have with these stuffed peppers because so many different sides can work. Rice, blanched beans, quinoa salad etc. However, I found that couscous worked beautifully.
Of course, this isn’t a must, but it’s just a good option. Not just because it tastes good with sultanas and herbs, but because there is nothing quicker and easier to prepare than couscous.
You just put 1 part couscous to 1½ parts boiled water with a pinch of salt or boiled stock (stock is better) in a bowl. Add your sultanas, mix it up, cover with a lid or with cling film and leave for 10 minutes. And BAM! Couscous is done, just add some herbs, rocket and/or spinach at the very end and serve with your stuffed peppers.
My measurements were 1½ cups of couscous to 2¼ cups of boiled stock. And that is a good solid amount of couscous that can feed 4-6 people.
How to hollow out the peppers
Super easy, but first, I will mention one thing that is quite important to take note of. Which is, when you buy your peppers, scout out the ones that have a flat enough surface to hold their balance. You don’t want to serve a stuffed pepper that will fall straight on its side.
So now that we’ve established that, first you just cut the top part of the pepper off (where the green stem is).
Next, use your knife to cut out the middle core part with all the seeds to hollow out the pepper.
After that, you simply just use a spoon to scoop out the remaining seeds and the white pith.
And it’s as simple as that!! There really shouldn’t be anything technical or difficult about that process.
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Turkey and Lentil Stuffed Bell Peppers with Tomato Sauce
- 1 tablespoon of canola oil
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
- 800 g of tinned plum tomatoes
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 5 bell peppers
- 500 g of turkey mince
- Canola oil (or any other light oil with a high smoke point)
- 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 800 g of tinned cooked lentils drained and rinsed
- ¾ cup of frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 2 teaspoons of paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 100 g of cheddar cheese grated
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- Put the tinned tomatoes in a bowl, then use your clean hands to crush the plum tomatoes.
Pre-heat a pan or sauce pot over medium heat, add your oil, then add your garlic and fry for a good minute.
- Once the garlic just starts to turn light brown, add your tomatoes. Turn the heat down and let the tomatoes simmer for a good 10 minutes.
Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Cut the tops of the bell peppers off, cut out the middle core part that holds all the seeds to hollow out the bell peppers. Then, just use a spoon to scoop out the remaining seeds and the white pith.
Use your clean hands to mix the turkey and the breadcrumbs together in a bowl.
- Pre-heat a large pan over high heat on the stove for at least 1 minute.
Add about 1 tablespoon of your canola oil, then add your ground turkey without overcrowding the pan (if you need to add the turkey in 2 batches, do so). Once the turkey is nice and browned, transfer to a new clean bowl and set aside.
At this stage, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (400 F)
Turn the heat on the pan down to about medium heat, add a touch more oil, then add your onions and fry for about 1 minute. Next, add your garlic and fry for another 30 seconds, then add your chicken stock.
Bring the stock to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and let the stock bubble for a few minutes. If there are any brown bits in the bottom of the pan from frying the meat, try to use your wooden spoon to clean the bottom of the pan (all of that residue can give the filling a lot more flavour).
Once the stock has simmered for a few minutes, add about 2-3 tablespoons of your tomato sauce to the mixture and stir it through.
- Add your turkey back into the pan, along with your lentils, frozen peas, cumin, paprika and ground coriander.
- Mix together, then season the filling to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the turkey and lentil mixture in the hollowed bell peppers.
Put the rest of your tomato sauce in a deep baking dish (or something similar), then spread it out evenly.
- Place the filled bell peppers inside over the sauce.
Put the lid on top, or if you don't have a lid, cover with foil.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes covered. After 45 minutes, take the lid/foil off, put your grated cheese on top of the stuffed peppers and then bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.
- Have a feel of the green peppers (if you're using them) before you serve them to see if they are tender enough. Put them back in the oven if think they could be cooked a little more.
- Make sure the pan is really nice and hot before you start frying the minced meat.
- Add breadcrumbs to the meat to keep a lot of the moisture inside.
- Don't season the meat when it's raw. Rather, season the filling with salt and pepper at the end when it's done.
- Don't overcrowd the pan when cooking the meat, if you need to add the meat in 2 batches, do so.
- Couscous is always an easy stress-free side to prepare, so maybe that is something you want to consider if you're wondering what to serve with these stuffed peppers.