Cuban-Style Stuffed Round Courgettes

This recipe is my Cuban take on French petits farcis, using round courgettes. The filling is also excellent for stuffing eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. I particularly love the presentation of this dish; the stuffed courgettes are simply beautiful, and they work well as a luncheon main served with a salad or as a dinner side.

I have served this dish multiple times alongside poached salmon with fennel and also alongside a nice steak. Of course, the bonus of stuffing any vegetable is that the entire vegetable can be eaten – no waste! As this recipe takes a little more time to prepare, I typically serve this on a weekend, and it’s been a great hit with dinner guests. Note, in this recipe I didn’t include olives, but they make a terrific addition to the filling when stuffing other vegetables, particularly peppers.

Prep Level: Easy
Time required: 1 hour in total – 30 minutes prep

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Round Courgettes, or vegetable of choice
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • ½ red pepper, chopped 
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ large yellow onion or 1 small, chopped 
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground cumin
  • Paella spice mix or equivalent (e.g. mix of saffron, cayenne, garlic powder, dried herbs)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 cup Basmati or Spanish style rice
  • 1 vegetable (or chicken) bouillon pot or cube
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro or basil (optional)
  • Water

Method

There are three main steps to preparing this dish: Preparing the courgette “shells and tops,” preparing the filling and stuffing the courgettes. Preheat oven to 200C

Prepare the courgettes.

Note: Courgettes can be prepared this way in advance of cooking. So, you can make these in the morning, for example, and then let them cool, stuffing them in the evening and warming them to serve for dinner.  

First, Chop the tops off of each of the 4 round courgettes, leaving enough of the top to create a little “lid” for when they’re stuffed and served.

Then, empty the courgettes, placing the inside bits inside a bowl and setting aside, and leaving the shell ready to be stuffed.  Start with a paring knife, cutting inside the courgette, following its shape.  I usually then switch to a teaspoon to scoop out the insides.

Then:

  • Lightly coat the inside and outside of the courgettes and their tops with olive oil. 
  • Lightly salt the inside of the courgettes.
  • Place the courgettes into a baking dish lightly coated with olive oil.

Cook the empty shells and tops at 200C for no more than 30 minutes.  Larger courgettes will take the full 30 minutes, smaller ones may be ready in as little as 20 minutes.  You want the courgette softened, but never squishy. 

Remove them from the oven, placing each courgette upside down on a paper towel, allowing any liquid to drain. Set aside until ready to stuff.

Prepare the Filling

While the courgettes cook, you’ll prepare the filling.  Note: The filling can also be prepared in advance, as much as a day ahead.  There are two ways to prepare the filling.  One way is to prepare the vegetables (see below) and the rice separately and then combine and season; the other is to cook them together.  It’s really a matter of personal choice as both result in great taste.  My preference is to cook them together, so I’ve written the recipe this way. Also, I always use vegetable broth, but chicken broth will enable a richer flavour.

  • Rough chop the insides of the courgette which were removed in Step 1.
  • Melt butter on medium heat in a large saute pan.
  • Place peppers, onion and garlic into the pan, sprinkle with a pinch of coriander and a pinch of cumin and stir. (lovely smell!)
  • Cook for 2 minutes until they begin to soften and then add the chopped courgettes, continuing to stir. Note: Here is when I typically add 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • Add 1 cup of rice to the pot, stirring the rice in with the vegetables for a minute.
  • Then add 2 cups of water mixed with one vegetable bouillon pot, the vegetable stock, and stir.
  • As the ingredients begin to come to a boil, add the paella spices, a pinch of salt & pepper and the tomato paste.  Note: You can add more spices and tomato paste later to taste if needed.

Turn the heat to low and cook the rice as directed, usually no more than 20 minutes.  Make sure to check the rice periodically and stir so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Turn off the heat once the rice is cooked.  Allow to cool briefly and then adjust the spices and season according to your taste.  Sometimes I add more paella spice, or saffron threads, sometimes it comes out just right.

Add the fresh herbs into the mix once you’re ready to stuff, warm and serve the courgettes.

Stuffing the Courgettes

Stuffing the courgettes is the best part, and a fun way to involve children in dinner prep! Note: If you’re going to serve these right after the preparations above, then they will need not more than 15 minutes or so to cook.  If the courgettes and the mix have cooled, then allow 30 minutes for them to warm before serving. Oven temp remains 200C.

  • Using a small teaspoon, fill each courgette cavity with the vegetable & rice filling, pushing down gently if needed to help the mix to the bottom.  Fill to the top of each courgette, but don’t overstuff.
  • Add a “top” to each courgette, effectively closing them, and place in a baking dish in the oven as directed above. 

Remove from the oven and serve warm, ready to eat, with any extra rice on the side for those who want more.  

Enjoy! Remember, the entire courgette may be eaten!

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