I’d been looking at a recipe in Rick Stein’s Long Weekends book of shallots stuffed with lamb, cinnamon and pine nuts and thought it sounded wonderful. So, with plenty of time to cook today, I decided that’s what we’d have for supper tonight. I also decided to cook some vegetables stuffed with rice, tomato and herbs for a vegetarian version. The vegetarian option is also a Rick recipe from his Venice to Istanbul book (both recipes are slightly adapted). I’ve re-watched some of the TV series recently after buying the DVD and Rick talks of how stuffed vegetables are one of his favourite things to eat – and they are mine too!
Finding the large banana shallots Rick uses proved impossible, so I just bought some ordinary onions. I planned to just cook three – one each – and knew I’d have some of the lamb filling over and bought some aubergines too. I remember having wonderful lamb-stuffed aubergines in Istanbul, so I was going to bring a little of Turkey into my meal as well. For the vegetarian version I chose bell peppers and large tomatoes. I think we may be eating stuffed vegetables for longer than supper tonight! But they are wonderful – perhaps even better – cold, or at least room temperature (don’t serve straight from the fridge is you have some left over).
Onions and Aubergine Stuffed with Lamb, Cinnamon & Pine Nuts
- 3 medium sized onions
- 2 aubergines
- 400g minced lamb
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
- 1½ tablespoons tomato purée
- 30g pine nuts, dry roasted in a pan
- handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon white wine or cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Top and tail the onions, remove the outer skin and put into a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes, cooking at a simmer. Drain and leave until cool enough to handle. Then carefully push out the middle part of the onion, leaving an outer shell of two or three layers, depending on thickness. If you can’t push them out, use a knife or small spoon to take out – you’re going to chop the middle so it doesn’t matter about it coming out in bits. Then cut the 2 aubergines in half lengthwise and remove the inner flesh with a teaspoon, leaving a roughly 1cm edge to shell.
Chop the inner onion and the flesh from 1 aubergine (either discard the other aubergine’s flesh or add to the vegetarian option later). Add it to the lamb mince with rest of the ingredients – except the wine vinegar and olive oil. Use your hands to mix well together. Don’t be tempted to put in a food processor or you’ll end up with paste and that won’t be right. Stuff the onion and aubergine cases.
Put them in ovenproof dishes. Use a different, smaller one for the onions as they will come out of the oven earlier. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the vegetables. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and put into a moderate (200C/180C/160 Fan) oven. Cook the onions covered for 40 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 20 minutes until nicely browned. Cook the aubergine covered for 1 hour, remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Peppers and Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice, Tomato & Herbs
- 4 bell peppers (preferably a mix of colours_
- 4 large tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra at end)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 2½ tablespoons tomato purée
- 250g long grain rice (I used a mix with wild and red rice)
- salt & black pepper
- large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
Cut the tops off the peppers to make lids; remove the seeds. Cut the tops off the tomatoes to make lids; remove the flesh and seeds and reserve for later. Put the vegetable cases in an ovenproof dish.
Put the olive oil in a large pan with the chopped onion and garlic. Fry gently for about 3-5 minutes until softening. Now add the chopped tomato flesh and tomato purée. Stir well and cook for about 10 minutes until softened.
Tip in a mug (250g) of rice. Mix into the tomato then add a mug and a half of vegetable stock or water. Season with salt and pepper and the parsley and dried herbs (Rick uses fresh mint, but I didn’t have any!). Mix well, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is almost tender. It will finish cooking in the oven. Then spoon into the tomato and pepper cases.
Put the lids on each vegetable, drizzle over a little olive oil. Pour a little stock or water to cover the bottom of the dish and then cover tightly with foil. Bake in a 160C/140 Fan/Gas 3 oven for 1hr 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Check your rice is fully cooked now.
I put all the cooked vegetables on the table for everyone to help themselves. Which amounted to us trying one of everything. Quite greedy, I suppose, but how do you choose!
We liked them all a lot. The lamb filling has a good taste (20-month Freddie had eaten some earlier and loved it – he didn’t like the aubergine but loved the meat!) though was quite solid and sausage-like. The vegetable I liked most was the pepper with the vegetarian rice filling. All the flavours worked so well together, it fell apart softly and was absolutely gorgeous, reminding me so much of eating stuffed vegetables in Greece. And on a grey day when the clocks went back, so it was dark at 4.30, it was so nice to have a little something to make one think of sunny Greece. There are some leftovers, which will be nice cold tomorrow, perhaps for lunch.