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How to make it: Nargisse Benkabbou’s bakoula-stuffed Romano peppers recipe

Recreate Nargisse's interpretation of her mother's bakoula

How to make it: Nargisse Benkabbou’s bakoula-stuffed Romano peppers recipe

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I love bakoula, a Moroccan salad made with mallow. Ever since I moved to London, I have been trying to get hold of this plant so I can reproduce my mum’s bakoula. Having failed, I tried using kale and spinach, which worked well, but I’ve found the closest substitute is Swiss chard. Used as a filling for Romano peppers, then drizzled with yoghurt and sprinkled with hazelnuts, my mum’s bakoula reaches a whole new level. It’s tangy, crunchy, seriously tasty and yet unbelievably healthy.

Serves: 4
Takes: 35 mins

Ingredients
4 Romano peppers
50g blanched hazelnuts
50g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the bakoula salad
4 tbsp olive oil
800g Swiss chard, stalks removed, leaves cut
into 3cm-wide strips
3 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1½ tsp paprika
¾ tsp ground cumin

Method
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C,
gas 4. Start by roasting the Romano peppers. Use a sharp knife to make a vertical incision 5cm in length from the stem end towards the other end of each pepper, making sure you don’t cut right to the ends. You will use this incision to scoop out the seeds once the peppers are cooked. Lay the peppers in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about 25 mins or until the skins of the peppers look wrinkly and their flesh is soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
2 Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the hazelnuts and toast for about 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until golden. Leave to cool for a few mins, then use a food processor or a pestle and mortar to coarsely grind the nuts. Set them aside until you’re ready to serve.
3 To make the bakoula salad, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set over a medium heat. Add the Swiss chard, then stir in the chopped parsely and coriander, 3 tbsp lemon juice, crushed garlic, paprika, cumin and ½tsp salt. Cover the pan and cook for about 8 mins until the chard is soft. Uncover the pan and cook, stirring occassionally, for a further 5 mins or until all the liquid has evaporated. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until you’re ready to stuff the roasted peppers.
4 Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, use a spoon to carefully remove and discard the seeds, making sure you don’t damage the flesh as you go.
5 Mix the yoghurt and 2 tbsp lemon juice together in a small bowl. Divide the bakoula salad into quarters and use one quarter to stuff each Romano pepper. To serve, drizzle the yoghurt sauce over the stuffed peppers and scatter with the ground hazelnuts.

Read our interview with Nargisse here.

Featured in Issue 2 of National Geographic Traveller Food.