This recipe calls for a tool called a manakra to be used. It is used to hollow out a zucchini creating a void so it can be stuffed. Instead of purchasing this unitasker I used and old fashioned hand held corer/peeler. Stuffing and cooking the zucchini was easy and fun. I tried the finished dish with and without the yogurt. Definitely have it with the yogurt. Something really magical happens when you add it.
10 small Lebanese zucchini, approximately 10 cm long
2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
natural yoghurt, to serve
1 cup (200 g) long-grain rice, washed
250 g lean minced beef
1 medium tomato, finely diced
½ onion, finely diced
⅓ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
⅓ cup chopped mint
⅓ cup chopped coriander
¼ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp baharat or allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
20 g butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil
Thoroughly combine the stuffing ingredients.
Cut off the zucchini stalks, then 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 turning a manakra into the flesh. The tool will remove thin fingers of flesh at a time; keep hollowing until you have a generous cavity. (Reserve the zucchini flesh for another purpose, such as an omelette.) Fill a bowl with water and add 1 tsp salt. Wash the zucchini in the salted water (this helps to keep them firm when cooking), then drain.
Fill each zucchini with the stuffing, leaving 1 cm free at the top to allow the filling to expand. It’s easiest to fill the zucchini by hand, tapping them on the bench every now and then to settle the stuffing down. If you have any leftover stuffing, shape it into meatballs.
Fill a large saucepan with water and add 2 tbsp salt and the tomato paste. Add the stuffed zucchini and any meatballs and bring to the boil. Simmer over low heat for about 1 hour, allowing the sauce to reduce. Serve the stuffed zucchini with a little of the sauce and a dollop of yoghurt.