Guest Post: Serbian Stuffed Peppers

by Karen on Monday, April 4, 2011

Post image for Guest Post: Serbian Stuffed Peppers

Please welcome Lana from Bibberche, an incredible food blogger whose writing beautifully intertwines personal stories with food.  This guest post is unique because Lana and I had the opportunity to take advantage of proximity and cook together– quite possibly the best way to share food.

I have never written a guest post for anybody before. When Karen of Globetrotter Diaries asked me if I would consider writing one, I was elated, excited, and panic-stricken, in that order. It was as if someone offered to share their seat on the bus for the upcoming field trip when I was ten. I am a perfectionist and anxiety is always very close to my heart.

I love the idea of the Globetrotter Diaries blog. Roaming the world tasting the best of food is the equivalent of the search for the Holy Grail… if there were uncountable grails popping up in the most amazing places. Their posts are informative, their recipes well-written and diverse, and the photography simply amazing.

I can walk through the shopping mall and ogle the newest fashions, smell the soft leather of the beautiful Italian boots, and have enough strength to turn away and move on. I can imagine living in a small house and driving a small, used car without feeling the pang of envy that is so easy to experience in Orange County. I can watch Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with my girls and sing at the top of my lungs that Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend only for the musicality and entertainment value, without coveting the sparkling rocks.

I can do all that because I know that a couple of times a year I will find myself in another town, another country, another continent, getting up at dawn and falling asleep well after midnight, euphoric and excited, ready to tackle another day of discovery. Traveling has been my passion since I was conscious enough to realize that we were not at home. Experiencing various cultures, traditions, and cuisines fills me with joy and replenishes my batteries until the next trip. Karen and Valerie find happiness in criss-crossing borders and immersing themselves in the unknown, strange and foreign, only to learn and get seduced by the unexpected. Their traveling shoes have not taken them yet to the Balkans, and Karen asked me if I would fill in the gap.

Karen and I decided to make this experience even better by meeting at my apartment and preparing a dish together. I thought for the longest time of a meal that would best represent the cuisine of Serbia. The most obvious choice was the beloved roasted suckling pig. But we did not have a weekend to splurge on this event, even if I managed to procure the piglet. The next idea that jumped to my mind is roštilj, grilled mixed meats, but I do not possess the expertise, nor the equipment necessary to prepare this delicacy the right way.

And then I thought of peppers. When I met my American husband, he was smitten by the number of dishes Serbs can make with peppers. Used only to an occasional pepper ring on his salad, he was seduced by roasted peppers sprinkled with garlic, and dressed with a vinaigrette; ajvar, the roasted red pepper spread that takes hours to make, but worth every second of hard work; hot yellow bell peppers filled with unpasteurized milk and left to ferment until the milk becomes creamy, spicy, and tangy; banana peppers blanched in water, oil, vinegar and spices, and marinated with parsley and garlic; and stuffed colorful bell peppers.

Stuffed peppers were a summer dish when I was growing up in Serbia. In the 70s and 80s, the preferred kind was a locally grown pale yellow bell pepper, moderately sized, sweet, and soft-skinned. It takes about an hour to prepare, and the smell of it simmering on the stove brings forth the memories of an innocent age, the days spent at the town swimming pool, playing cards and daring games, shyly flirting with seventeen year old boys, and composing melodramatic and sentimental poetry after everybody went to sleep. It brings back Father's unrealistic confidence in us and Mother's apprehension, the universal wishes of living somewhere else, and the hunger for knowledge that awaits us once we make it to the other side of eighteen.

When Karen arrived, there was a bowl full of red, orange, and yellow bell peppers sitting on the counter. They were small, firm, and shiny, perfect for stuffing. We spent several hours getting to know each other, talking, laughing, cooking, and eating. She insisted on washing every dish that we used, even though I felt guilty over it as a hostess. We discovered a mutual passion for coffee, and I made us a demitasse of Turkish coffee to enjoy before dinner. We were so engrossed in talking that we almost missed the opportunity to photograph the peppers.

After the hasty photography session, we sat down to eat. Karen liked the stuffed peppers, and my heart jumped a bit. I did not invent the dish, I did not develop the recipe, I just followed the steps Mother taught me many summers ago. I am sure that every region in  the Balkans and its surrounds has a similar dish on its traditional menu. Serbia was, after all, under the Ottoman Turkish rule for several centuries, and the legacy is still there, embedded in cooking. There are different varieties of the dish, but this one is Mother's, the one I grew up with, the one that marked my years spent in Serbia.



  • 1 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ cup of short grain rice (Arborio, or any other risotto rice)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or juice, smooth or chunky, depending on taste)
  • 8-10 red, yellow. or orange bell peppers, smaller in size
  • 1-2 potatoes, peeled, and cut into circles


Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sautee until translucent. Add the ground beef and stir until mostly browned. Season with salt and add rice. Stir until rice is coated in oil, for 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool.

Wash the peppers and cut the stems out, leaving the opening of 1 to 1 ½ inches. Using a teaspoon, fill a pepper loosely with meat, onion, and rice mixture, making sure that there is some room for the rice to expand while cooking. Plug the opening with a potato round and lay the pepper upright in a Dutch oven. Continue with stuffing, laying the peppers upright next to each other until the pot is full.

Pour the tomato sauce (or juice) around the peppers and fill the pot with water to cover the peppers half way. When it boils, turn the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the peppers are cooked through and soft.

Serve with a nice piece of crusty bread.



Beth (OMG! Yummy) April 4, 2011 at 9:43 am

Hi Lana and Karen – what a great guest post. Love the whole idea that you met and cooked together, and especially a dish from your mom and childhood. I do love this type of food, most of all, I think. I am also becoming more and more enamored of orange, red, and yellow peppers. They are so beautiful to look at and so sweet when they are cooked. I frequently just roast a whole bunch, smother them in olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs, and keep them around to jazz up sandwiches and various meals all week.

Thanks for sharing!

Nadia April 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

It must be so nice to have bloggers near by so that you can share the experiences of eating and sharing recipes. This was a lovely post by Lana and many thanks to Karen for introducing us to her. I really like her writing style as well. The peppers look really delicious-the colors have me swooning.

Belinda @zomppa April 4, 2011 at 10:06 am

What beautiful peppers! This dish is so inviting. =) How fun to cook and share together.

Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking April 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

This dish looks so delicious! I love making stuffed peppers and am always looking for new ideas for the stuffing. This will be wonderful to try! Thanks for sharing. You have a beautiful blog and I’m looking forward to exploring your recipes.

Lentil Breakdown April 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Beautiful writing and photography, ladies! I’ve been to Yugoslavia (remember that?) and Turkey and I will gladly eat anything from the Ottoman Empire, including an ottoman! Cheers!

Valerie April 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I adore this post to the teensiest little bits. Thanks so much for sharing, Lana!

Orly @yumivore April 5, 2011 at 12:20 am

A visually enticing piece, stuffed peppers are common in Israeli kitchens as is the art of sharing Turkish coffee with company. How beautiful to share the art of cooking with friends! It would have been lovely to join you for the experience.

Kulsum at JourneyKitchen April 5, 2011 at 12:24 am

Karen where have you been? Anyway its so good to get on your blog and see such lovely recipe. I love bell peppers, I’m almost addicted to them. And honestly I know nothing about Serbian food. So glad you introduced us to Lana and her pretty blog!

Lynne April 5, 2011 at 3:27 am

What a lovely and well written post! The peppers look divine!

deana@lostpastremembered April 5, 2011 at 4:28 am

It is remarkable how the new world pepper crept throughout the world and became tent poles for cuisines… like Hungarian paprika… as if it had always been there. I never would have thought of Serbia and stuffed peppers… they are gorgeous jewels… you ladies are quite a team!

Sasha (Global Table Adventure) April 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

Gorgeous and vivid post, Lana 🙂 I chuckled about your dad’s overconfidence.. my husband is the same way with our daughter.

skip to malou April 5, 2011 at 9:40 pm

hello Karen, i met Lana (welll virtually) on twitter and felt a connection right away… if I was closer to where you ladies live, I would have invited myself haha… what a great way to learn Serbian cooking. I m excited to do an exchange with Lana soon too.

Great meeting you through this post.


sippitysup April 6, 2011 at 8:59 am

What a wonderful way too get to know each other better. Lana is a beautiful writer. But I already knew that! GREG

Karen April 7, 2011 at 12:02 am

Thanks for the lovely comments everyone– we had such a good time– hope it gets to happen again soon! The peppers were delicious comfort food!

Mely@Mexicoinmykitchen April 8, 2011 at 4:24 am

Hello Karen,

I love to read Lana’s posts, she is such a talented writer and cook.
She knows our family has a special feeling for Serbia. This dish looks so comforting and with few ingredients. I love the idea of the potato slice topping the pepper.

You tow did a great team work.


rebecca April 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

wow how cool you both got to cook together great post and love Serbian food

love to you both Rebecca, a fellow Traveller 🙂

Serene April 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Oh, wow, that looks fantastic! I never would have thought of the potato.

I’m so happy to have found Globetrotter Diaries by following Lana over here. What a great blog!

Sarah April 25, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Lovely post and recipe. I traveled in the Balkan’s last summer (Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria) and we ate lots of different pepper variations. I especially liked the roasted long green peppers stuffed with salty white cheese (sirene) that was battered and fried. Thank you for the guest post.

susie April 28, 2011 at 5:48 am

My Grandma made these..we call it Sarma. We always said we were Serbian, but the family homestead is in Trebenje an amazing trip…your peepers are much prettier!

Deepa July 19, 2011 at 7:08 am

This looks beyond delicous!!! I bet I could try a vegetarian version too. I love love love your blog and am now a keen follower… The blogs you follow are also equally amazing. Please stop by my blog when you get a chance.

** elmin ** June 14, 2013 at 12:40 am

wooooow.i love it.

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