Lamb & Mint-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato & Pepper Sauce
Yes, I must admit that the ground lamb smiled at me as I walked past the butchers, teasing me, saying "everybody loves hamburger- why not lamb-burger?"- and that certainly seemed to be a great idea at the time! And yet, by the time I got home, I was feeling cold and more needy of something warming and comforting than a simple burger in a bun... even if it was going to be made of tasty lamb!
So instead, I decided on making a hearty, stuffed zucchini in a rich tomato and pepper sauce, baked, beautiful and bubbling hot! Much better! And with a couple of little tricks, quick and easy (as always) too! Let me tell you how you can make a terrific meal out of next to nothing and in next to no time... because it really is easy when you know how!
I started off by cutting the zucchini into equal sized pieces, around 2" in length and hollowing them out with a melon scooper. I then popped the hollowed-out "tubes" into my steamer, to pre-cook them a while before I added the filling- this would also ensure that they didn't give off lots of liquid into my tomato and pepper sauce later on.
Whilst they steamed, I started my sauce cooking and it was made from a dice of red, yellow and green peppers, onion, some crushed garlic, plenty of parsley, a handful of basil and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I sautéed them all together until the onion became translucent, then added a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt, pepper, nutmeg and a few chili flakes. Once the tomato paste was worked-in with the other ingredients, I deglazed the pan with a little red wine and then added a splash of boiling water and reduced the heat to a simmer.
I formed the lamb into little meatballs, just big enough to fill the zucchini and stuffed each section, making sure to get right down to the bottom. Next, I poured the sauce, which had been boiling away for 10-15 minutes, into an oven-proof dish and then arranged the zucchini sections evenly inside. I sprinkled a little cheese and bread crumbs on top, which would not just brown nicely, but also absorb any excess moisture and form a nice topping... and then popped it into the oven for 15 minutes at 300°F.
Towards the end of the cooking time, I added a last tiny sprinkle of extra cheese and gave it 2-3 minutes under the broiler... yummy! Once it was golden and brown and bubbling away, I served it straight up, with a sprinkle of fresh thyme and a little fresh pepper. And yes, I did dip my hamburger roll into the tasty sauce- I am not too proud to admit it! But I would recommend a nice ciabatta when you come to try it... and I hope you will enjoy!