​Stuffed vegetables

This is a wonderful colourful tray of mixed vegetables, which you can vary according to what’s easily available and in season.
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This recipe uses a combination of tomatoes, peppers and courgette, which can be halved or divided, so that everyone gets a taste of each.

Serves 6–8

* 900g minced beef and pork
* 2 large red onions, finely grated
* 15g chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 250g uncooked short-grain rice
* 4 tbsps olive oil, plus 125ml extra
* 1 heaped teaspoon sweet paprika
* 1 tsp dried mint, crumbled
* 1 tsp ground black pepper
* 2 tsp salt
* 6–8 ripe tomatoes
* 4 red peppers
* 4 courgettes
* 4 potatoes, cut in half lengthways and then into halves or thirds
* 3 tbsps butter, melted
* juice of ½ a lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Put the meat in a large bowl with the onion, parsley, rice, four tablespoons of oil, paprika, mint, pepper and salt.

2. Slice the tops off the tomatoes and keep them on one side. Hollow out the insides of the tomatoes with a teaspoon (a pointed one is easiest), holding them over a bowl to catch the juice. 

3. Chop up the pulp and add to the meat with half of the juice from the tomatoes. Keep the rest of the juice. Sit the tomatoes in a large oven tray. 

4. Cut away a top hat from each pepper, leaving a hinge of a couple of centimetres on one side. Scoop out the seeds and throw them away, but save any of the fleshy pepper bits that you can. 

5. Chop up this flesh and add it to the meat. Put the peppers on the tray — it doesn’t matter if they don’t sit flat, they can lie down.

6. Cut away a hat from each courgette and scrape out the flesh with a pointed teaspoon. Chop this up and add it to the meat. 

7. Put the courgette on the tray (or, cut it in half and scrape out a hollow from each side with a potato peeler or pointed spoon, so that you have the two hollowed-out halves, now upright).

8. Holding the meat bowl with one hand, mix thoroughly with your other hand, turning the meat filling from the bottom of the bowl up, so that it is well combined. 

9. Fill the hollowed-out vegetables with the meat filling, using your hands or a tablespoon. Don’t overstuff them - wait and see that they have all been filled and then you can go back and add a bit more here and there. Add the potatoes around the vegetables.

10. Pour the remaining 125ml of oil into the remaining tomato juice and add the butter, lemon juice and 375ml of water. Mix together and pour carefully over and around the vegetables. Put the tops back on the vegetables and sprinkle with 
salt, especially the potatoes.

11. Bake for about 1¼  - 1½ hours, until the vegetables are golden and darkened in places and seem soft even at the bottom (if your vegetables dry out, add a little extra water, but this shouldn’t be necessary). These should not be served 
really hot - turn the oven off and leave them in there for at least 15 minutes before serving (they are best if you can manage to leave them for a couple of hours). They are good at room temperature, or even the next day. 

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The Recipe Collection by Tessa Kiros (Murdoch Books £20). Photography: Manos Chatzikonstantis

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