How to cook Arabic (Kousa Mahshi)
Want to know the perfect dish to have with family and friends at sundown during Ramadan? It is the legendary Mahshi!
Known as one of the most common meals in Egypt, it also happens to be prevalent in other nations in the Middle East.
Mahshi is very nutritious when prepared with small amounts of cooking ingredients such as oil and butter. It is a meal recommended by many health coaches to individuals on a path to weight-loss. It happens to be vegan-friendly, which makes this dish suitable for a large number of occasions.
Mahshi is stuffing made of rice, herbs (such as parsley, coriander, and dill), semi-cooked tomato sauce, and a pinch of cinnamon and allspice. Some processes involved, such as stuffed grape leaves and cabbage rolls, require some level of skill which you will get familiar with if you prepare it often. In Egypt, they use cored “zucchini,” cored eggplants, cabbage leaves, grapevine leaves, and small bell peppers. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t find alternatives to some of the vegetables. You can use any vegetable of your choice. To prepare Mahshi, you would need:
- 8-10 zucchini (the zucchini should each be 8-12” long and ~1 ½” in diameter)
- 1 ½ c medium-grain rice
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 peeled and diced tomatoes, with their juices (you can use fresh or canned)
- 3 oz. tomato paste
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tsp salt, divided
- ¾ tsp ground black pepper, divided
- 2 beef bouillon cube
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ c chopped fresh parsley
- 1lb ground beef or lamb (meat that is between 80-90% lean works well too)
- 3 TB butter, melted
- Fresh lemons, cut into wedges (for garnishing)
NB: it is important to have handy, a sharp-tipped vegetable peeler.
Method of Preparation
- Wash and clean the zucchini and trim off the ends. Cut each of the zucchini into 2 or 3 equal parts. The size of the zucchini will determine the extent to which you cut the zucchini. We suggest that each piece should be 4-5 inches long. Use the sharp-tipped vegetable peeler to hollow out each piece and leave one end of the zucchini intact and not pierced. You can also use a small sharp knife to achieve the desired result but, you would do it carefully to avoid piercing the outer part of the zucchini. The zucchini shells should be about 5 cm thick after hollowing them.
- Pour the olive oil in the pot over medium heat; add the onions and sauté for about 6 minutes or until softened; add the garlic paste and sauté for 1 minute. Remove about ¾ of the onion and garlic mixture from the pot and reserve in a separate bowl. Add the tomatoes, and tomatoes paste, ½ tsp of salt, ¼ tsp of pepper, bouillon, bay leaves, fresh parsley, and water enough to fill the pot to around 2/3 to ¾ of the way full. Heat the tomato sauce till it simmers.
- To make the zucchini filling, mix the reserved portion of onion and garlic, raw ground meat, melted butter, uncooked rice, 1 ½ tsp salt, 1 ½ tsp pepper, and allspice in a bowl. Stuff the mixture in each of the zucchini shells. Pack the mix well and make sure it is well stuffed; leave some gaps at the top of each zucchini because the rice will swell when cooking.
- Place the stuffed zucchini in the simmering tomato broth; cover it and cook for about 60 minutes. To check if the zucchini is done, remove a piece and cut it in half. Once it is soft, take off the heat.
- Serve the zucchini garnished with fresh lemon, alongside the tomato sauce.