This post originally appeared January 2013 and was updated in April 2016. Nooshejan (enjoy)!
Dolmeh Felfel is one of those labor-of-love dishes that takes half a day to make but is so worth it. At the end you have 6 pre-packaged little meals that smell and taste amazing – the the gift that keeps on giving all week! For many Iranians this dish evokes the true meaning of ‘comfort’… Childhood memories of the dolmeh simmering for hours and the scents wrapping around the house. In case you’re wondering what does dolmeh mean – dolmeh means anything that’s stuffed in Farsi! So as you can imagine, there are many variations of this dish – you can use almost any vegetable as the ‘shell’. For me, bell pepper is the classic.
Even though this dish takes longer than the average, there is something so satisfying about working on it for the entire afternoon – and at the end you are rewarded with an incredible meal. And don’t be intimidated by the number of steps! It is not complicated – and the dish is just as tasty no matter how imperfect. See below for a step-by-step photo guide to stuffing the peppers, and note I’ve ‘colored outside the lines’. It’s all good because the herbalicious filling that spilled out will mix with the tangy sauce and create lots of yumminess!
My recipe for Dolmeh Felfel is adapted from Najmieh Batmanglij’s Food of Life, which is pretty much the bible of Persian food and recipes. If you have any interest in Persian cuisine whatsoever (which I assume you do if you’re reading this!), do yourself a favor and get this book…. and make this recipe! 🙂
Dolmeh Felfel (Persian Stuffed Bell peppers) – a traditional dish of rice, herbs and meat stuffed into bell peppers and slow-cooked with spices to form a fragrant, delicious meal.
- 6 bell peppers (I like green, try to find ones that are sturdy)
- ¼ cup rice (long-grain basmati rice is the best for Persian cuisine)
- ¼ cup yellow split peas or lentils
- ½ cup oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup chopped fresh scallions
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 cup beef broth
- ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- Soak your rice in water (minimum 30 minutes, best overnight).
- Simmer the rice and lentils/peas for 30 minutes in 2 cups of water and ⅓ teaspoon salt then drain. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t stick to the pot.
- While the rice and beans are cooking, wash and dry your bell peppers. Cut the tops off, scoop out the insides and set aside.
- In a non-stick skillet, saute your onion in 2 tablespoons of oil for about 3 minutes. Add the meat in and cook until brown, then add in 2 tablespoons tomato paste and mix until combined.
- Add the lentil and rice mixture to your meat mixture and combine. Toss in your chopped herbs and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. At this point you should have a really beautiful potpourri that will become your dolmeh filling.
- Arrange the bell peppers in a large, wide pot (you will probably have to jam them in, but no worries) and salt the inside of them. Fill up the bell peppers with your beautiful filling (again, don’t be shy to jam it in) and replace their lids. Good luck trying to match up the lids – remember that imperfection is still delicious.
- Mix the broth and tomato juice and pour around the dolmeh.
- Cover the pot and simmer for 45-60 minutes. The bell peppers should be very fragrant and semi-soft.
- Make the sauce for the dolmeh by combining 2 tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons oil, lime juice, sugar, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon salt and saffron water and bringing to a boil.
- Lift the lid, inhale then pour your sauce over the dolmeh.
- Let simmer for another 45-60 minutes until the dolmeh are nearly falling apart (and they probably will, when you try to scoop them out). Serve, pouring some of the juice onto each plate and enjoy!
Here are the photos from when I first posted this recipe in January 2013: