I have been back in the UK for a couple of weeks and am leading more the life of a nomad than when in Greece; sofa surfing with friends and family… I thought it would be nice to give my family a flavour of Greece so cooked them one of my classics: stuffed tomatoes and peppers. Although they can be a bit fiddly, tomatoes are my favourite vegetable to stuff, as there is something quite fun and satisfying about the whole process, especially if you have a partner in crime who prefers the job of stuffing peppers. You can stuff them with various herbs, nuts, dried fruits, olives, seasonal vegetables (I’ve used leeks in this recipe) and different types of cheeses. In this recipe I have included one of my favourite combinations: tomatoes stuffed with halloumi, quinoa and chilli. They make a great gluten free alternative to couscous or bulgar and halloumi when it’s cooked in the oven gives it a wonderful texture… To mix things up a bit I like using a different stuffing for the peppers. In this recipe they are stuffed with rice, sundried tomatoes and nuts.
Recipe for tomatoes stuffed with quinoa and halloumi and peppers stuffed with rice, walnuts and sundried tomatoes.
6 medium to large sized firm tomatoes
6 small to medium sized peppers (any colour)
120g of rice
70g halloumi cut into small chunks
1 large onion roughly chopped
1 leek cut into thin slices
1 garlic clove minced
50g of chopped fresh parsley
50g of chopped fresh dill
50g of chopped fresh mint
2 chopped dried chillis
50g of chopped sundried tomatoes
50g of toasted walnuts, chopped
3 tbsp of lemon juice (approx half a lemon)
2 tbsp of olive oil and extra for drizzling
1. Using a small serrated knife carefully cut the top off each tomato, keeping each top together with its tomato. Use the same knife to gently cut around the inside membrane of each tomato being careful not to tear the skin, leaving it around 1cm thick. Make a cross shape on the top of each tomato and use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp.
Chop the pulp and place it alongside the seeds and their juices in a bowl. Set each tomato aside with its top.
2. Carefully slice the cap off of each pepper, keeping each pepper and cap together.
3. In a medium sized pan heat the oil and saute the onion on a low heat for approximately 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the leeks and garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes.
4. Now divide the mixture by putting half of it into a second pan. For the tomato mix, add the quinoa, 150ml of water and half of the tomato pulp and seeds and put on a medium heat. Once the water has boiled, reduce the heat and cover. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes until the quinoa is almost cooked, but still has a bit of bite and the liquid is absorbed (you may need to add more water) but still moist.
5. Whilst the quinoa is cooking, you can also make the pepper stuffing, by adding the rice alongside the rest of the tomato pulp/seeds, nuts and 150ml of water to the other pan. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and cover and simmer for around 7 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked and the liquid has absorbed but still moist. Again, you may need to add a little more water.
6. Stir in the halloumi, chillis, half the herbs and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into the quinoa mix and season with salt and pepper.
7. Doing the same with the rice mix, stir through the other half of the herbs, sundried tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Stuff the tomatoes with the quinoa filling and put the lid on top. Do the same with the peppers and the rice mix.
Place them all in a baking pan. Drizzle the lids of the vegetables with olive oil. Put in pre-heated 180c oven for approximately 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown a little. Remove from the oven for 5 minutes before serving.
You can serve these with homemade tzatziki (dip made of greek yogurt, grated cucumber, garlic and olive oil) and crispy kale or a crunchy green seedy salad.