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Croatian Stuffed Peppers Recipe (Punjene Paprike)


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Get stuffed… whoops, I mean get stuffing. There are loads of stuffed vegetables that you’ll see dished up here in Croatia and around the Balkans. Today you’re being served stuffed peppers or, for my Aussie readers, stuffed capsicums.

Stuffed peppers are called punjene paprike in Croatian.

stuffed peppers croatan cooking
Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers are a hearty dish of mincemeat & rice. Typically served with mashed potato or sometimes rice.

You’ll find stuffed peppers on offer in Croatia as soon as the peppers are ripe.

In our case, the vegetable garden politely made some available for picking in early July.

Every Croatian I know has their variation on this recipe, and they, of course, all claim that their way is the best way to makes them. Also, in my years of being in a Croat family, I have noticed that people have different ways of eating them. Here are the three ways that I have identified.

Scoop

Scoop out the stuffing & leave behind the pepper. This, to me, is such a waste as the pepper becomes so soft and sweet during the cooking process.

Slice

You can slice the pepper into sections as I do, taking turns to add some mashed potato and sauce with each mouthful.

Mash 

The most popular way I have seen stuffed peppers eaten is to mash the entire plate, peppers, potatoes, sauce, and all into a mushy mess. This way, you can shovel the contents much more quickly into your mouth.

Have I missed a way to eat them? Let me know in the comments section below. 

expat cooking stuffed peppers

I first made stuffed peppers after my Mother-in-Law gave me a cookbook of Croatian Cooking for Christmas, and over the years, I have added to and changed up the recipe to my taste.

If You’re Going To Make Them, Here Are Some Tips In Advance From My Kitchen To Yours

  • These are even better to eat after a few hours or even the next day. I suggest you make these up on a Sunday & then you can enjoy them after a hard day at the office.
  • If you’re like me and love the flavor of smoked bones, throw some into the pot when you pour in the sauce.
  • Ask your butcher to mince your meat for you freshly – you’ll taste the difference.
  • Use a mix of yellow, red, or green capsicums. It always looks so lovely to see the different colors on the plate.
  • Dig out from the back of your cupboard the largest saucepan you can find. If you don’t have one, I suggest you borrow one from your neighbor. In return, offer them a pepper & you’ll be friends for life. The wider the pot, the better. That way, you won’t need to pile them on top of one another, and they’ll be less likely to split and break.

Things to do in Croatia_Stuffed Peppers|Croatia Travel Blog

 

Here Is My Recipe

Looking for a tasty stuffed peppers recipe? Stop looking, you’ve found a simple & traditional Croatian recipe, known in Croatia as punjene paprike.

Ingredients

The Peppers & Stuffing

  • 8-10 medium-sized peppers (I use all colors, though many say red are best)
  • 1 kg of minced meat. I prefer 1/2 veal and 1/2 beef (2.2lbs)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of smoked ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of hot ground paprika (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed dried herbs (optional)
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of soda water or a pinch of bicarbonate soda
  • 2 large cloves of chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup of freshly chopped parsley
  • 200 grams finely diced speck (7 oz) You can cut this back if you do not like too much of a smokey flavor

The Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 finely diced medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 liters stock (or water) (8.5 cups)
  • Pinch of Vegeta (optional)
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions

The Peppers & Stuffing

  1. Take 8-10 medium-sized peppers, and carefully cut out the top and set aside the as you’ll use this as a lid for the pepper later. Scoop out the insides and be sure to remove all of the seeds and any stringy pieces. Wash the lids and peppers and allow them to dry upside down on paper towel while you make the stuffing
  2. To make the stuffing, add all the ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to lightly mix until combined. Make sure the bowl is big enough for you to be able to use your hands to mix it well without spilling it all over the floor (trust me, it happens)
  3. Flip the peppers over and fill them with the stuffing until they are almost full. But do not overfill them. The rice expands during cooking and they’ll burst leaving you a hideous mess in your saucepan. Leave the lids off for the moment
  4. Arrange the stuffed peppers in the saucepan. It’s better if they are gently packed in so they don’t flip over & don’t squeeze them in so tight, as they’ll bust open when they expand. This may take you several minutes to do, but trust me it is well worth it at the end when your peppers are not split open
  5. Add in 2 bay leaves and a stick of celery. No need to chop this, as it’s just for flavour. Set aside, while you make the sauce

The Sauce

  1. In a separate saucepan on medium heat add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and fry 1 finely diced medium onion
  2. Once onions are transparent, add in 2 tablespoons of flour and fry until light brown. Add into the pan 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 litres of homemade stock (or water) along with a Pinch of Vegeta and add salt & pepper to your taste
  3. Stir continuously, until the sauce comes to the boil. Turn off and slowly pour over your peppers. Be sure to pour the sauce over each pepper as well as around each one. The sauce should cover the peppers. If it doesn’t, and this can happen, just add in a little more stock or water. If you are adding in smoked bones, pop them in now
  4. Place the top of the pepper back on, it acts like a mini lid. If you didn’t keep it, it’s okay, nothing bad will happen
  5. Shake the saucepan just a little, you want to be sure that the sauce is evenly spread. Bring to the boil, and then turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook for approx 2 hours, occasionally shaking the saucepan. This is important to keep the sauce evenly spread and to stop the peppers from sticking & burning. Add in more water as they cook if you need
  6. Once ready, allow them to cool a little. They’ll taste better if you can resist the temptation. Serve with mashed potato or rice – and if you don’t manage to eat them all in one sitting, you can keep these in the refrigerator for a few days. I can’t say how many days, as they never last that long in my house

Do you make your Stuffed Peppers differently? Let me know in the comments sections below. I love hearing new ways to make a recipe better.

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