A Great Zero-Waste Stuffed Vegetables Formula With Leftover Rice and Greens

Our good friends at FoodCycle are working on an e-book filled with delicious, homely recipes that people love to cook for friends and family. We have been invited to contribute and celebrate food as the amazing way it can bring people together. We grew up in Turkey where pretty much anything that can be stuffed is stuffed. From grape vine leaves, beef tomatoes and bell peppers to cabbage or onions, home cooks use various techniques to create their own version. For us, it’s all about practicality. Stuffing is a great way to make use of your left-over rice or greens and vegetables that would otherwise not be sufficient for a whole dish on their own. Below is a quick and easy way of stuffing inspired by the recipes used in the Ottoman Palace. You can prepare the stuffing in advance, eat hot or cold. It’s family as well as environmentally friendly.


Total Time: 45 m I Prep: 15 m I Cook: 30 m I Difficulty: Moderate



(Serves 4) 

  • 2 large onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (olive oil is key for this dish)
  • Leftover rice (to cook fresh, recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons dried raisins (optional)
  • 1 tomato cut in chunks (optional)
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh parsley (or any seasonal green in your fridge)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt & Pepper to season


How to prepare:

  • Sautee your onions slowly in low heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once they are translucent, add pine nuts and continue to saute until pine nuts turn pinkish. Careful not to burn.
  • Once onions and pine nuts are ready add your leftover rice. Stir well so rice and onions are evenly mixed. Turn off the heat. If you are cooking fresh rice, read instructions below.
  • The Palace recipe favoured onions over rice, with a ratio of about 3 to 1. In modern day Greek and Turkish cooking, it is more a rice dish and onions are there just to give flavour.
  • Add your spices, dried raisins, rest of the olive oil, juice of one lemon and finely chopped seasonal greens. Stir well. Amounts are entirely up to you. We like plenty of parsley as it brightens flavours. Cumin and cinnamon have a strong taste and adding mild tasting fresh greens balances this dish. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Pictured here are courgette flowers that have become relatively easy to source in London. Courgette flowers (or blossoms) are a delicate summer treat which is regularly featured in Greek and Turkish feasts. Pretty much any vegetable in your fridge with a large enough cavity can be stuffed. Many find bell peppers easiest to stuff. Carefully slice off the top of your vegetables and remove any inner flesh or seeds with a spoon. Try not to damage its shape.


  • Fill your vegetables up to two thirds, gently pressing down the rice. Rice will get bigger (and fluffier) as it cooks so avoid overstuffing your vegetable. Place a chunk of tomato on top to cover the rice.
  • Lastly, get a deep enough saucepan and place your vegetables upright, packed tightly. Then pour a couple of cups of water around the stuffed vegetables, until it covers the vegetables just about halfway. Cover with a lid. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for about 30-45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.


How to prepare Turkish rice (pilav):


  • 1 coffee mug of  rice (we use baldo rice)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • A few drops of lemon juice (optional, keeps rice from sticking together)

Wash your rice with warm water thoroughly and drain. Add rice and lemon juice on your cooked onions and pine nuts. Stir well. Pour 1 coffee mug of boiled water into the pot. Amount of water to rice should always be one to one. Meaning, if you are cooking 2 coffee mugs of rice, add 2 coffee mugs of boiled water. Cover your saucepan, bring up to a full boil and then reduce the heat to a very low temperature and simmer. Your pilaf will be ready in roughly about 20 minutes when all the water is absorbed. Try not to open the lid too many times while you are cooking or smush the rice to check if there is any water left. Instead, watch the steam coming out of your pot as it will reduce over time.