In my search for ideas for a vegetarian Christmas main course which would work equally well with all the trimmings being served to the meat eaters and which would not leave the vegetarians at the table feeling like their meal had been an afterthought, I came across a lovely recipe in Ottolenghi’s new book, Plenty, which I was sure would fit the bill perfectly.
So here it is, the recipe (with a few additions of my own) which made my vegetarian diners feel special. And by the way, the meat eaters were fighting over what little was left!
500ml vegetable stock
350ml white wine
4 large onions
3 small tomatoes
120g fresh white breadcrumbs
90g feta, crumbled
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
4 sprigs thyme, stripped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped
½ tsp salt and ground black pepper
Butter for greasing
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Prepare a buttered oven-proof dish.
- Put the stock and white wine into a medium-sized saucepan, bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.
- Trim 5mm off the top and bottom of the onions, then cut them in half lengthways. Remove the skin and carefully take out most of the insides, keeping only two or three layers of the outer skin of each onion intact.
- Carefully separate the outer layers from each other and place, a few at a time, in the simmering stock. Cook for three to four minutes, until just tender, then drain well and leave to cool slightly. Repeat until all the onion has been blanched. Turn off the heat and keep the stock on one side.
- Finely chop about one third of the insides of the onions. The rest you will need to keep and use up in another dish.
- To make the stuffing, use a coarse cheese grater to grate the tomatoes into a large bowl (you will be left with most of the skin in your hand; discard it). Add breadcrumbs, feta, parsley, thyme, oil, garlic, spring onion, chopped onion, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Fill each onion skin with stuffing. Pull the sides together so that you end up with a fat cigar shape. Place seam-side down in the buttered dish.
- Pour over about 75ml of the stock, just enough to cover the bottom of the dish.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft and lightly coloured, with the stuffing bubbling. If the stock dries up during cooking, add a little more.