I couldn’t care less about rules and instructions when I am cooking. I like to believe that “not giving a damn” gives me the opportunity to embrace my own unique cookery talent and to experiment as much as I want. However, there is still one rule in cooking that I always stick to: The best thing you can do to food is stuffing it with other delicious food.
Stuffed foods are the epitome of comforting extravagance. Stuffed food not only looks good, it also lifts great flavours to an even greater level of tastiness. These stuffed vegetarian recipes are the best way to make the humble vegetable shine and are bursting with delicious Mediterranean flavours.
Courgette boats stuffed with Mediterranean orzo pasta
I’ve never been much of a boat person, because I tend to get seasick rather quickly. But when it comes to edible vessels, I simply cannot wait to embrace my inner pirate. These lovely courgette boats are stuffed with fragrant orzo pasta and crumbled feta cheese and were served with a pungent tomato and basil sauce.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 3 courgettes
- 350gr orzo pasta
- 250gr feta cheese, cut into small chunks
- 500gr passata
- 1 red pepper, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Lots of fresh basil
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- Pinch of chili flakes
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the courgettes in half lengthwise and remove the flesh to create cute boats.
- Season with salt and pepper and drizzle on some olive oil. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until al dente.
- For the tomato sauce, heat some olive oil in a small sauce pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Stir in the passata, balsamic vinegar and sugar and bring to a simmer. Add the chili flakes, red pepper and thyme and simmer for at least 20 minutes.
- Cook the orzo pasta according to the instructions on the package. Once drained, stir in a couple of tablespoons of the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper.
- Now stir some chopped basil and half of the feta cheese into the orzo pasta. Spoon the mixture in your courgette boats and finish with a crumbling of feta cheese. Put in the oven for 5 minutes or until the feta cheese is starting to get a golden colour.
- Meanwhile, stir lots of fresh basil in your remaining tomato sauce and serve.
Italian sweet peppers stuffed with bejeweled saffron couscous
This is, if I may say so myself, a truly remarkable dish. The sweet long peppers are perfect in combination with the aromatic saffron couscous and are a quirky alternative to your ordinary bell pepper. To balance the sweet aroma of the peppers and bejeweled couscous I conjured up some spicy and sticky fried onions to serve on top of the peppers. This, in combination with a fresh and herby yoghurt dip turns this dish into a vegetarian Walhalla.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
- 4 Italian sweet peppers
- 250gr couscous
- ¼ tsp saffron powder
- 2 dried figs, finely chopped
- 4 dried apricots, finely chopped
- Handful of sultanas
For the aromatic fried onions:
- 2 large onions, finely sliced
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp honey
For the herb yoghurt:
- 250gr Turkish-style yoghurt (if you can’t find that, just use Greek or plain yoghurt)
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tbsp chopped dill
- 2 tbsp chopped mint
- ½ tsp harissa paste
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the long peppers lengthwise (but make sure you don’t cut all the way through) and remove the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook your couscous in vegetable stock with the saffron powder until the couscous is tender and has absorbed all the liquid. The couscous should now have a lovely golden colour.
- Stir in the chopped dried fruit and stuff the couscous in the peppers once they come out of the oven. (Stir the remaining couscous around the peppers)Drizzle some extra olive oil over the top and lower the oven temperature to 180°C. Put in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until your peppers are soft and tender.
- Make your fried onions by heating a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and frying the onions together with the spices and honey until they start to caramelize.
- For the herb yoghurt, mix together all the ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve your stuffed peppers with a generous dollop of herb yoghurt and some spicy sweet onions.