Potato stuffed peppers: now let’s see how easily you can take two common ingredients and transform them into a delicious, one-pan, vegetarian meal that will make even the most stubborn of meat eaters pant for more.
Potato stuffed peppers is a second recipe of this type on the blog (remember the first stuffed peppers?). I’ve decided to include it anyway because this one is a little bit different, and dare I say, even tastier than before.
Instead of grating potatoes, this time around we cube them, stuff the peppers with it, and bake. Fifteen minutes before the end of baking, we take the peppers out and add heavy cream. The result are the most succulent potato stuffed peppers you’ve ever tried in your life. And if you haven’t tried any, this is your opportunity to do so.
As I’ve mentioned in the previous recipe, potato stuffed peppers are the type of meal that will make you ask yourself why you didn’t think of it. Well now you don’t have to. It’s here for your consumption.
Conserving a culture’s heritage is one of the main challenges one collective is confronted with. Today’s globalization-promoting world, and I mean more than just the economics but the overall promotion and widening of one’s culture, creates a unique challenge for the smaller countries and peoples (those countries economically weaker). How to accept the influence of the stronger, while maintaining one’s own identity? One of the main elements of a culture is its language, and it reflects foreign influences, and also the intensity of local influence over the others. The languages spoken by the Balkan peoples are spoken in a relatively small area. They are used in their native countries, therefore their influence (with the exception of Greek), over other lexicons is modest. For example, there are only about two Serbian words that are a part of the everyday English. One of them is paprika, and the other, said to be the first Serbian word to get into the standard English, is connected to an unusual story.
The year was 1725, in Kisiljevo, a small village near Požarevac, Serbia. A group of a few village men loaded with shovels, lead by the local priest and Frombald, an officer from the Austrian administration, moved slowly and in total silence, toward the local cemetery. Preoccupied with the thoughts of past events and that which they were about to do, they didn’t say a word. After some time, they stopped in front of a grave covered with still fresh earth. On the cross staked above it said “Petar Blagojević.” They stood glued to the ground for a few moments. Officer Frombald directed a long look toward the priest, as if he were questioning the decision they had made together; and not finding any indication of wavering, turned to the village men and nodded his head for them to start.
They plunged the shovels forcefully into the earth rath and started to dig. The priest began reciting the prayer for the soul salvation out loud, thus canceling the long silence. Fresh earth was advantageous for the diggers. The grave was a few weeks old and there had not been enough time for the earth to settle and harden, which made the process easier. Only a short while was necessary for a thump from the shovel hitting something hard, and slow the village men down. Kneeling above the open bier and leaning over it, coated with shudder, they opened their eyes wide looking for what they came for.
One of the men with strong arms grabbed the casket cover and moved it to the side. Silenced, they watched the dead man’s body. It looked fresh. Without noticeable changes. The face, marble like and without expression, with a few traces of red liquid on his lips and around ears. The priest, straightening his back, firmly demanded a stake from the villagers. One of the villagers grabbed a footlong hawthorn stake prepared earlier, well-sharpened on one end, dull on the other. Holding it tight with both hands in the middle, he placed the sharp end against the deceased’s chest vertically. Another villager hit the dull side with a strong hammer lunge, and plunged the stake into the dead man’s chest, straight into the heart. The wound started to bleed fresh blood.
Having finished, the men got out of the grave. Tired from digging and unusual business, they sat down on the ground to breathe. Officer Frombald moved away a few steps and leaned against a tree. He then took a white, silk handkerchief from the inside pocket of his suit and wiped his sweaty forehead. He felt worn down and at the end of his strength.
“Are you OK sir?” The priest asked him.
“Yes, I am. I will be. It’s just… Air,” Frombald said.
“Almost?” Asked the officer.
“We have to burn him.” Responded the priest.
“Burn? Is this necessary?” Asked the officer.
“Absolutely sir. There is no other medicine.” A villager chimed in. “That’s the only way to know for sure he won’t come back.”
“Was this not enough?” Asked the officer.
“Sir,” the priest said, “village people are scared. They won’t calm down until everything is finished. Allow us to finish this.”
“He choked nine people already. We cannot risk it.” Continued the villager.
“I thought the stake through the heart was enough for those… how do you call them?”
“Vampires. We call them vampires,” said the villager. Coming close to the officer, he took off a dark, wide-brimmed hat made out of heavy materials, while he wiped sweat of his forehead with the forearm. “Sir, since Petar died a big misfortune came upon our village. People are getting sick. Suddenly. They claim Petar comes to them at night. And his widow. Poor woman. He came by every night. He was asking for shoes. She couldn’t stand it anymore. She ran away to a different village.”
Officer Frombald, seeing that the fear was strong among these people, decided to fulfill their request and squash the spread of panic. Hesitantly, he allowed them to bring the business to its end on their own terms. After everything was finished, the dead man’s remains were collected and spread outside the cemetery, while they covered the grave again with the earth.
The next day, leaving this village and going back to Belgrade in his carriage, officer Frombald opened his official diary to an empty page. He wrote in dark ink: Petar Blagojević. Rose from the grave. Vampire.
This story, although fictional, and originating from my imagination, is founded, somewhat, on real life events. Namely, as I mentioned at the beginning, only two words with roots in Serbian came into a wide use in English. The second word is vampire. Although the belief in “reanimated” dead people is known to many cultures around the world in different forms, this mythology is typical for people from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and comprises an unavoidable part of their folktales.
And the story about Petar Blagojević, or the “first documented” vampire, is a part of the report from the Austrian army administration from 1725, while one part of Serbia was under the Austrian authority dictated by the orders of Požarevac peace. Later, the report was taken up by the Viennese newspaper Wienerisches Diarium (today’s Wiener Zeitung), and pretty soon the story gained in popularity and is considered one of the first testimonies about vampires in Europe and had significantly added to the lust that followed later in Germany, France, and England during the 18th century. In any case, whether you believe in vampires or not, it’s still a fact that because of superstitions of the people in Balkan rural areas, one word, in an unusual way, through Vienna, extended into all world languages and for a long time successfully has been scaring generations as an unavoidable part of contemporary mythology.
And the first word. Paprika. Here is a recipe about it. 🙂
- 2 pounds bell peppers (small)
- 2 pounds potatoes
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Wash and core peppers.
- Peel, wash and dice potatoes into small cubes and transfer into a bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil, parsley, seasoned salt and 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Mix well.
- Take a baking pan and generously oil on all sides. Heat oven to 430F.
- Stuff peppers with potato and spice mix. Layer them into the baking pan, and cover with a light film of oil. If there is more stuffing left over, pour it into the baking pan in between peppers. Add one cup of water to the pan and place in the oven.
- After 15 minutes, lower heat down to 390F, and turn the peppers around if they're blushing too much.
- About 30 minutes after placing the pan in the oven, take it out and add the remaining heavy cream to the pan. Mix well, and turn peppers around if necessary. Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. (Taste the potatoes to check whether they're done.)