Thank goodness that mum learned to cook lots of Greek dishes while in Crete. It allowed me and my brother to keep our links with Greece during a confusing and rather chilly time. Moving to England was strange and the comfort of familiar flavours was important.
One of the dishes that has graced mum’s dinner table over the years is stuffed vegetables. Mum would spend time preparing the mixture of beef and rice with herbs and then cook a range of peppers and tomatoes in a roasting tin until the aromas filled the house with the memory of warmer days.
As children, the variety was a big draw and the colours brought excitement to the table. For once, vegetables were the centre of the meal. We didn’t care what mum served the stuffed vegetables with. Often we’d have them on their own or with a salad. They are quite filling and cheap to make; another reason why mum made them regularly. The best part though, was knowing that we’d be eating them the next day too. Mum always made what I came to regard as a “two-day tray”. God bless you, mum!
Something I’ve enjoyed making is spanakorizo, which is a mixture of rice, spinach and tomatoes. It makes a lovely side dish, but I decided to use the spanakorizo to stuff some tomatoes and peppers and roast them in the oven like mum used to. We ate the vegetables over two days and really enjoyed them. I hope you do too!
4 peppers (halved)
3 beef tomatoes
350g long grain rice
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tblspoon dried oregano
1 tblspoon fresh mint (chopped)
1 tbslpoon tomato puree
Cook the rice in the chicken stock until it has absorbed the liquid and cooked through. Add the chopped tomatoes and oregano and bring to the boil. Add the spinach and tomato puree and simmer until the liquid has reduced.
At this point, I usually pour in a good glug of olive oil and stir it through the rice. I also season the rice with sea salt to taste. Grind plenty of black pepper over the rice and mix in. Finally, stir in the chopped fresh mint. Now you’re ready to stuff the vegetables.
Cut the peppers in half and drizzle some oil in each half before adding spoonfuls of the spanakorizo to them. Cut a lid off each of the beef tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and flesh. Drizzle some oil inside and then fill with the spanakorizo.
Roast the vegetables in the middle of the oven at 160C until the rice is beginning to brown and go crispy on top. I love olive oil, so I usually drizzle all of the vegetables with more oil and season them again before they roast. As the juices in the tin collect, baste the vegetables every now and again. This keeps the flavours in your vegetables.
If you want the rice on top of the tomatoes to crisp up, just take the lids off for a while in the oven.