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Stuffed zucchini (kousa mahshi) recipe

kousa mahshi in a cooking pot and in a serving dish

To adapt this kousa mahshi recipe for vegetarians, use chickpeas instead of minced beef.


Judy Saba

The best zucchini to use for this recipe is the small, slightly bulbous, pale green variety often sold as Lebanese zucchini. Hollow out the zucchini using a manakra, which is a tool like a long apple corer designed for this purpose; you can find them in Middle Eastern food stores.


10 small Lebanese zucchini, approximately 10 cm long
2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
natural yoghurt, to serve


1 cup (200 g) long-grain rice, washed
250 g lean minced beef
1 medium tomato, finely diced
½ onion, finely diced
⅓ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
⅓ cup chopped mint
⅓ cup chopped coriander
¼ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp baharat or allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
20 g butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil

Cook's notes
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Thoroughly combine the stuffing ingredients.

Cut off the zucchini stalks, then slice off the dried tips at the opposite ends without removing too much flesh. Carefully hollow out the zucchini from the stalk end by pushing and turning a manakra into the flesh. The tool will remove thin fingers of flesh at a time; keep hollowing until you have a generous cavity. (Reserve the zucchini flesh for another purpose, such as an omelette.) Fill a bowl with water and add 1 tsp salt. Wash the zucchini in the salted water (this helps to keep them firm when cooking), then drain.

Fill each zucchini with the stuffing, leaving 1 cm free at the top to allow the filling to expand. It’s easiest to fill the zucchini by hand, tapping them on the bench every now and then to settle the stuffing down. If you have any leftover stuffing, shape it into meatballs.

Fill a large saucepan with water and add 2 tbsp salt and the tomato paste. Add the stuffed zucchini and any meatballs and bring to the boil. Simmer over low heat for about 1 hour, allowing the sauce to reduce. Serve the stuffed zucchini with a little of the sauce and a dollop of yoghurt.

Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Alice Storey and Georgina Larby. Creative concept by Belinda So.

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