(for 4 as a starter, 2 for a light lunch – easily doubled)
Vegetables, for stuffing. Any combination of: tomatoes, courgettes (round are nice); aubergine; peppers. You’ll want a total of 4-6 pieces per serving.
For stuffing: 250g minced beef; 1 onion, finely chopped; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; 4 thick slices of day-old bread; milk (enough to soak the bread); large spoonfuls of parsley, thyme and basil, all finely chopped. You’ll need oil and seasoning, too.
First, chop up the bread and cover it with milk. While it is soaking, prepare the vegetables. Tomatoes: cut off the tops and scoop out the insides. Work over a sieve: you don’t want the seeds, you do want the juice and the inside pulp (keep the juice separate). Par-boil all the other oveggies, peppers 5 minutes; aubergines 10, courgette 5-10 minutes (depending on size) enough so they are softened sufficiently to scoop out the middles. Scoop out (and save) the centres of the courgettes and aubergines. Cut everything into serving pieces to match the size of the tomatoes. Put the vegetable pieces in well-oiled roasting tins, you can put a basil leaf in the bottom of each, too, if you like. Fry the onion slowly until it is soft, well-cooked and golden. Add the beef, turn up the heat and fry until the meat is well-browned and savoury. Mix in the finely-chopped vegetable innards, crushed garlic, herbs and 3/4 of the soaked bread (squeezed dry and chopped). Season generously. Use this mixture to stuff the vegetable shells, then top with the remaining soaked bread. Drizzle the tops with olive oil. Put the tomato juices in the bottom of the tomato tin, and a little water in the others. Bake in a moderate oven (160) for an hour, and baste with the juices in the pan (and perhaps a dribble of oil) several times.
EATING These can be eaten hot, but are at their best just warm. Alone, they are a starter; with a salad they are a meal. Good for a picnic or party.
VARIATION You can use rice instead of bread (top with the vegetable “hats”); you can add some Parmesan to the stuffing.