PORK & RICE-STUFFED VEGETABLES
There is nothing quite like a slow-cooked pepper ﬁlled with an aromatic stufﬁ ng of rice, meat, herbs and spices. When developing this recipe, I did what any self-respecting cookbook author should do – I phoned my mum. This was a staple dish when I was growing up and, a true amalgamation of our life in the UK and our Greek heritage, as it was always served with gravy. I love this recipe for its flexibility. You can stuff whatever you want: peppers, courgettes, beefsteak tomatoes, with whatever you like – minced pork, beef or lamb, or even leave it out for a vegetarian version. Have fun, cook it to your way and always, always, serve with gravy (and if you really must, a green salad as well).
6–8 vegetables for stufﬁng,
I used 2 red (bell) peppers,
2 beefsteak tomatoes,l
1 onion, diced
250 g/9 oz. minced/ground pork
2 generous pinches of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon tomato purée/paste
150 g/generous 3/4 cup basmati rice
200 ml/scant 1 cup chicken stock
a small handful of toasted pine nut kernels
250 ml/1 cup canned chopped tomatoes or passata/strained tomatoes
a few handfuls of fresh herbs, always ﬂat-leaf parsley, then whatever else you fancy, coriander/cilantro, mint, basil…
1 tablespoon Greek dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking and drizzling
instant gravy, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) Gas 4.
Cut the top off each of the vegetables (save the tops for later) and scoop out the ﬂesh inside. Place the vegetable bottoms into a roasting pan snug enough to hold them (I use a little crumpled foil underneath each vegetable to hold it upright).
To make the stufﬁng mixture, fry the diced onion in a pan with a little olive oil for 5 minutes until it softens and is cooked through. Add the minced pork and cook until done; if there is a lot of liquid, keep the heat on to reduce some of this.
Add the cinnamon, tomato purée and rice, and cook for a minute before adding the stock. Simmer gently until it is all absorbed – you’re not cooking the rice, just giving it a little helping hand. Once the liquid has been absorbed, add the pine nuts, chopped tomatoes or passata and all the herbs. Season with salt and pepper and stir through. Turn off the heat.
Spoon this mixture into each of the hollowed-out vegetables stopping about 1.25 cm/1/2 inch from the top. Place the reserved top of each vegetable back where it came from (so no putting the pepper top on the aubergine – they’re unsociable and don’t mix well!).
Pour in 250 ml/1 cup cold water into the base of the roasting pan and then cover the vegetables with foil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 11/2 hours, after which time remove the foil, drizzle a little olive oil over the top, season, and pop back in the oven for about 10 minutes until they take on some colour. Let them rest while you whip up some gravy!