Kousa mahshi, translating to stuffed courgettes, is one of those super comforting dishes that most people love and the one they love the most is usually their mum's or their grandma's. Growing up, I always thought that everyone had mahshi the same way we did, until one day I went to my friend's house and had mahshi that was made in a red tomato sauce. I went home thinking it was good, but super weird. It was only later in life that I realised that the more popular version of mahshi was made in a red sauce and the pinky-orangey sauce we grew up having was actually a less popular version and, to further blow my mind, I found out it is originally made with jameed, the same type of yogurt used for mansaf! This version is popular in the Palestinian cities of Hebron and Jerusalem, although mahshi is popular across the Middle East.
Having grown up in the US, we did not have access to jameed regularly so my grandmother would make it with regular yogurt and let me tell you, it is super delicious and lighter than jameed. Of course, if you have jameed and want to use it, go ahead. Similarly, if you'd prefer the more popular red sauce version, core and fill the courgettes like I do and then make the sauce by leaving out the yogurt. You can cook your courgettes straight in the tomato-based sauce, but since regular yogurt can't be cooked for very long, I like to partly cook my courgettes in water first and then finish them off in the sauce to make sure it does not curdle or burn.
The courgettes used are called Magda zucchini and they have a pale green skin that is slightly striped. This is found generally in Middle Eastern supermarkets. You want to make sure you choose ones that are not too small, because they are hard to core and stuff and can burst. When stuffing your mahshi, you want to stuff it three quarters full and then close it with your finger and shake. This leaves room for the rice to expand after it cooks and shaking it means the rice wont all clump together and stick to the bottom. Another important tip when making a yogurt-based sauce is to mix it with the flour while it is still cold until the flour is incorporated and then heating it and not to cover it, as it will curdle.
If you want to try a version different to your mum's or if you haven't tried it before, give this one a shot. I am sure you'll love it as much as I do!
8 medium sized Magda zucchini (light green skin)
750 g yogurt
2 tbsp flour
4 cloves garlic, mashed
500 tomato passata
1 tbsp mixed spices
1 tbsp dried mint
250 g minced meat (beef or lamb)
1 cup Egyptian rice, soaked for an hour
1 tbsp mixed spices
2 tsp cinnamon
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp oil
- Remove the top of the courgettes and the tiny bit at the bottom. Core them carefully, trying to remove as much of the inside as possible. Give your courgettes a rinse and leave to dry while you make the stuffing.
- To make the stuffing, mix the drained soaked rice along with all of the ingredients until they are well incorporated. I like to use the back of a fork to kind of "comb" the meat into the rice.
- Stuff your courgettes with the rice mixture. Make sure you only fill it three-quarters full, cover the top and shake to distribute the rice evenly.
- Place your courgettes in a pot and cook in water, covered, for about 15 minutes or until the courgettes begins to soften and the rice begins to cook. Drain and reserve the cooking water.
- In a large pot, mix together the yogurt and flour before turning on the heat. Once the flour is mixed in well, turn the heat on medium and whisk continuously until the yogurt begins to bubble and thicken.
- Add in the garlic, followed by the passata and spices and whisk. Gradually add in some of the cooking water until the yogurt is at a slightly looser consistency than you would like, as it will continue to thicken once the courgettes are cooking in it.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning. Gently add in the zucchini and cook. Do not mix. Instead, give the pot a little shake from time to time to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and the courgettes are covered in the yogurt.
- Cook for about 15 minutes or until the courgettes are soft and the rice is cooked. Enjoy!