This Kousa Bil Liban is a delicious way to serve stuffed zucchini in a creamy yogurt sauce. Lebanese zucchini or kousa are stuffed with a delicious pine nut and mince filling and then cooked in the creamiest, most delicious tangy yogurt sauce!
This Kousa Bil Liban or zucchini in yogurt sauce is such a crowd pleaser and looks so impressive, especially when served with pickles, bread and side dishes. They've got such a comforting quality to them with the rice and mince stuffing and tender zucchini and creamy yogurt. I used to slightly dread receiving zucchini but once I started to receive kousa or Lebanese zucchini I got so excited at the possibilities. Kousa are Lebanese zucchini that are shorter than regular green zucchini with a striped green skin. Their shorter, squatter size makes them ideal for stuffing.
Manakra tool to hollow out the kousa or zucchini
The Kousa or Lebanese zucchini is hollowed out with a tool called a Manakra which is found at many Middle Eastern stores and makes quick work of hollowing out the zucchini. I try and hollow out as much as possible so that you get a generous amount of the filling. To learn a bit more about how I hollow out kousa see this blog post.
When I made the Lebanese stuffed zucchini I got an email from the lovely Sivine Tabbouch, who I did a wonderful Sunday Kitchen Lebanese cooking class with last year. She was so encouraging and kind about the recipe as were other readers on social media that when I received more Lebanese zucchini I wanted to make something else.
"We have a most popular koussa dish it is called koussa bi Laban. Which translates to koussa in yogurt. I make it with goat yogurt," she said. I was immediately intrigued. The filling is similar to the previous recipe but this one has the addition of pine nuts which are crucial in this recipe. They add both flavour and a crunchy texture. They're used in both the stuffing and to sprinkle on top of the final dish at the end.
Sivine gave me one very crucial tip when mixing the yogurt and that was to a) use some cornflour in the mixture to prevent curdling or splitting and b) to stir constantly when heating it up. I must admit that I messed up my first batch. It curdled as I left it to boil without stirring and on my second batch I heated it slowly and kept whisking and it remained beautifully creamy. I didn't have goat's yogurt so I made some with a couple of tablespoons of cow's milk yogurt and goat's milk. Making yogurt at home is a cinch and all you need is a couple of tablespoons of yogurt to "start" the culturing process.
The recipe below is an adaption of Sivine's recipe as I cook the zucchini in stock before finishing it in the yogurt. Sivine's recipe cooks the zucchini entirely in the yogurt. I served this with some bread but Mr NQN said that it wasn't needed, that he enjoyed eating the yogurt sauce like a soup. Even Teddy Elliott was begging for some as he loves yogurt, zucchini and meat.
A few people have asked me how Teddy is going with the new house. We thought we'd have to show him the old place and show him that it was empty for him to know that this is now his home but it seems unnecessary because he has completely settled in. He absolutely loves the garden and when Mr NQN does the gardening he can often be found in the sunniest spot.
He is also getting to know the sounds of the neighbourhood. On hot days when we leave the screen door open but locked he sits at the front door and barks at dogs that walk past and it has really brought out his guard dog instincts. Sometimes when we stay at Airbnb's with Teddy you can tell he can't wait to go home and he doesn't completely settle down, but he does here.
Teddy does have an odd ritual before bed though and I'm not a big fan of it. At around midnight when Mr NQN goes to sleep Teddy will come upstairs with him. And as Mr NQN has a shower Teddy grabs his squeaky toys and plays a little symphony of them as he gets his last burst of energy before he falls asleep. It happens every night without fail and all I can mutter "Teddy!" sleepily.
So tell me Dear Reader, which stuffed vegetable do you cook most often? Have you ever tried one with yogurt sauce?
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Kousa Bi Liban Stuffed Lebanese Zucchini in Yogurt
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by 4 readers
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
- 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
- 1/3 cup/50g/1.7ozs. pine nuts
- 1/4 cup/60g/2ozs. raw medium grain rice, soaked for 30-45 minutes (or overnight)
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- 250g/8.8ozs. beef mince
- 1/4 cup parsley, coriander and mint, chopped
- 3 teaspoons baharat or 7 spice
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1kg/2.2lbs. Lebanese zucchini (kousa)
- 4 cups/1litre chicken stock
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 300g/10.6ozs. natural yogurt
- 1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup cooking water
Step 1 - Pan fry the pine nuts in the ghee or butter until toasted and divide into two equal portions. Drain the rice and mix well with onion, garlic, mince, half of the pine nuts, herbs, baharat and salt and place in the fridge. Hollow out the centre of the Lebanese zucchinis with a manakra and stuff them with three quarters full.
Step 2 - Heat the chicken stock on high and add the zucchini and simmer turning every 10 minutes to ensure that they cook evenly. The zucchini skin will turn from green to grey. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender. Remove from the pot.
Step 3 - In a mortar and pestle crush the garlic and then mix with the mint and salt and set aside.
Step 4 - In a new pot add the yogurt and cornflour water on medium heat. Add in the cooking water whisking the whole time (the action of constant whisking and the cornflour prevents the yogurt splitting). Add the garlic and mint mixture and heat the zucchini again in this yogurt mixture on medium heat for 10 minutes. Serve with the sauce with the extra pine nuts.