It is always nice to take a little twist on tradition every now and then. This week it was yemista's turn for a bit of a creative tweak. Instead of filling the peppers, zucchinis and tomatoes with the usual mix of white rice, I instead used some brown rice (for a hit of manganese & selenium) plus some quinoa for a little extra protein. The best addition to this recipe though was the fantastic Sparoza Mediterranean herb and spice blend, which uses a combination of 15 herbs and seeds from oregano and melissa to linseeds, mustard seeds and sesame seeds. The Sparoza spice blend makes this dish incredibly aromatic and I loved the fact that it makes the brown rice and quinoa filling even higher nutritional value with all those extra seeds. This spice blend has become a little bit of an addiction really. It makes for the perfect snack when added to a little toasted pita bread that has been liberally drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
The real test for this twist on tradition came when I took a large tapsi of this dish to my parents in law's house for lunch. Ma is the expert on yemista and I was rather nervous about what her thoughts might be on the radical use of quinoa and brown rice in this traditional recipe. Happily, this dish got a big thumbs up and a "poli nostimo" from both Ma and Ba.
Stuffed Vegetables with Quinoa (γεμιστά με κινόα)
Serves 6, cooking time 1 & 1/2 hours
1 medium red onion, very finely chopped
1 medium brown onion, very finely chopped
1 bunch of parsley, very finely chopped
1 small bunch of dill, very finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
400g pork and veal mince*
1/3 cup brown long grain rice
1/3 cup white quinoa
1 & 1/2 tablespoons of Sparoza Mediterranean Blend**
1/2 Bukovo chilli flakes
Salt and ground black pepper
* if you wish to make a vegetarian version of this dish, you can simply leave the meat out and replace with a little extra rice and quinoa.
** available in Australia from Homer St (www.homerst.com.au).
20 vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini and peppers)
3 cups of hot stock or water
1 cup white wine
To prepare the vegetables
Wash the vegetables thoroughly, dry and then cut the tops off (reserve the tops and set aside). Scoop out pulp (reserve) and discard any seeds from the peppers or tomatoes. Sprinkle the cavity of the vegetables with a little salt and set them upside down in a tapsi (baking dish) to let any excess juice drain out.
To make the stuffing
Gently fry the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. Then add the reserved pulp from the vegetables (making sure it has also been finely chopped first). Add the mince and fry until just browned. Stir in the rice and quinoa, 2 cups of the hot water or stock, the parsley, dill, Sparoza spice blend and chilli flakes. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes until liquid is absorbed. season with a little salt and pepper.
To complete the dish
Fill the vegetables with the stuffing mixture, allowing room the rice and quinoa to swell. Replace tops on the vegetables and stand in an oven dish. Pour into the base of the pan the remaining cup of stock and wine. Drizzle with a little olive olive oil. Cover with foil and cook covered in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 30-40 minutes until the vegetables have started to brown on top. You may need to check there is enough hot liquid in the pan, top up with a little more boiling water if needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.