Recipe 5: Vegetarian Koosa

Ingredients:

1 cup short grain rice - washed
1/2 cup canned chickpeas - washed
1 kg white zucchini (about 6-7 zucchini)
1 can crushed tomato
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Mint leaves, to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp softened salted butter
Sugar and salt, to taste
0.5 tsp Cinnamon, to taste
0.5 tsp Mixed spices, to taste
Black pepper
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Steps to make a Vegetarian Koosa 

1. To prepare the zucchini, cut off the stalks. Thinly slice off the dried tips at the opposite ends without removing too much flesh. Carefully hollow out the zucchini from the stalk end by pushing and rotating the manqara* into the flesh until you have a generous cavity around 0.5 cm thick, or thick enough to allow the zucchini to retain a firm shape. (If unsure, first hold the manqara right next to the zucchini to determine how far to hollow. Carve from the middle and rotate outwards.)  

2. Once finished, fill a bowl with water and wash the zucchini with a tablespoon of salt (the salt helps keep them firm when cooking). Drain well. 

3. For the stuffing, combine the rice thoroughly with the chickpeas, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, butter and spices.

4. Stuff the zucchinis by hand until 3/4 full. Don’t press the rice; keep the rice loose so it has room enough when cooked.

5. Place the zucchinis sideways in a large saucepan. Add the crushed tomatoes and enough water to just cover the zucchinis. Cook over medium heat.

6. Bring to boil, then add salt, sugar, garlic, mint leaves, 1 tbsp of tomato paste and any excess stuffing. 

7. Reduce heat and let simmer for 30-35 mins, allowing the sauce to reduce.

Best served with a little of the sauce, a dollop of yoghurt, and Lebanese bread.

*A manqara looks like a long apple corer and can be found in any Middle Eastern shop. The alternative (and trickier) method is to use the end of a tablespoon.

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