It’s been a long time since I shared any Greek Cypriot Recipes on my blog, so today I’ve got a family recipe for Greek Cypriot Stuffed Vegetables. You can use various vegetables of your choice – peppers, and tomatoes are two of the popular ones, but you can also stuff courgette/zucchini, aubergine, marrow, potatoes, and onions. I used a mixture of beef mince, rice, herbs, and spices to stuff the vegetables with.
Greek Cypriot Stuffed Vegetables
I find that Greek-Cypriot recipes are made differently depending on who you speak to. So you could use a mixture of beef and pork mince, or just pork. Or you could stuff the vegetables with a rice and vegetable mix, or use a different combination of herbs and spices… that’s why I always find it a bit tricky to write out my Greek-Cypriot recipes, because they may be very different to another recipe for the exact same dish. In fact, I just call this dish stuffed peppers – even though it contains other vegetables. In Greek, it is called Dhiafora Parayiemista, which translates to various stuffed vegetables
Ultimately, I share what I have had passed down to me from my grandmother, aunts, or from my dad, which is the Cypriot half of me. (The other, for those interested, is Lithuanian.)
Since I’ve not made stuffed peppers for a while, I had to phone my dad to be reminded of the recipe. I know that the stuffing mixture is quite similar to Dolmades/Koupepia (stuffed vine leaves), but I wanted to make sure I had it all correct.
The basic mixture, he said is mince (beef or pork, whatever you have), onions, rice, fresh flat leaf parsley, salt and pepper. Sometimes he’ll put some dried oregano in it. He also said, he chops more vegetables these days to go inside – like mushrooms, and extra peppers, as my mum prefers it that way. I personally put lemon juice, mint and a bit of cinnamon in mine – all about personal preference!! He reminded me that his aunty said he should cook off the onions for a bit first, before mixing with the other ingredients – because it adds more flavour. But then he told me that he now cooks the meat off too. Us Cypriots… we don’t make things easy to we?!
In the past, I would normally stuff the vegetables with the raw mixture and cook in the oven. For this recipe, I combined the knowledge from my great-aunt, dad, and my own twist. But, for the record, you just mix all the raw stuffing ingredients together, before filling the vegetables. This way you can prep in advance, and leave in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
To start with I hollowed out the vegetables – a couple of beefsteak tomatoes, 2 peppers, and 2 courgettes. I flavoured the mince meat after it was cooked off, so that I could check for flavourings, and then stuffed the vegetables.
I found I had some of the stuffing leftover, so I then stuffed the last couple of small potatoes I had in the house (we were waiting on our grocery delivery!) and stuffed some onion shells too, to use it up.
I then added some stock around the vegetables, and poured a little of it inside them too, before popping on the lids. I sprayed everything with a low calorie cooking spray instead of olive oil, so that I could make this recipe Slimming World friendly -ordinarily I would use olive oil.
The dish went into the oven for a good hour and a half, possibly even 2 hours. So many Cypriot dishes are a labour of love! Serve with a Greek salad, and some dips like hummus, tahini, and/or tzatziki.
Like all Greek-Cypriot recipes that have been handed down to me, they are very much to personal taste. If you don't like certain herbs and spices, you are welcome to leave them out - or change the ratio of them.
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 courgettes/zucchini
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes
- 2 small potatoes
- 1 medium onion
- low calorie cooking spray
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 500g beef mince (5% fat)
- 2 tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp dried parsley (or a handful of fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped)
- 2 tbsps lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 100g dry white rice
- 1 beef or vegetable stock cube
- 500ml boiling hot water
- 1tbsp tomato puree
- Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 6/400F
- Bell Peppers: Slice off the "lid" and put to one side. Remove the seeds and membrane and discard.
- Beefsteak Tomatoes: Slice a "lid" and put to one side. Scoop out the flesh, roughly chop, and place in a bowl.
- Courgette/Zucchini: Slice a tiny sliver from the bottom so that they can sit without falling over. Then slice a "lid" off length ways, and scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon. Chop the flesh and add to the tomatoes.
- Potatoes: Peel, then slice a sliver from the bottom so that they can sit without falling over. Slice off a "lid" then using a knife and teaspoon, scoop out some of the potato to make a hollow for the stuffing to sit. Discard this inner potato, as it's not needed.
- Onion: Top and tail, then peel off the skin. Cut a slit from top to bottom, a few layers in, and place in boiling hot water for about a minute. Remove, and you will be able to easily pull off the layers keeping them intact.
- Spray a roasting dish with some low calorie cooking spray, or with a brush of olive oil. Stand all the vegetables inside the dish.
- Spray some low calorie cooking spray (or a drizzle of olive oil) into a frying pan. Add the chopped onion, and sweat for 2-3 minutes, then add in the reserved tomato and courgette flesh from the vegetable preparation above.
- Add the beef mince, and cook for 6-8 minutes until browned.
- Remove from the heat. Add the dried mint, ground cinnamon, parsley, lemon juice, and salt. Mix well. Taste for seasoning - add more of the herbs and spices if you so wish.
- Stir in the white rice and mix well.
- Distribute the stuffing mixture between the various vegetables. For the onions, place some of the mixture into one half of the "shells", and wrap it around. You could secure with a cocktail stick, but I never do.
- Crumble a stock cube into the hot water, and stir in the tomato puree.
- Pour some of this mixture into each of the stuffed vegetables, and around the vegetables too.
- Cover the tray with foil, and place in the oven to cook for 1½ to 2 hours - remove the foil for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking time to brown off.
- Serve hot with a Greek salad and dips. Can also be served cold/room temperature.