Just few weeks ago, fortunately (thanks to my loving Husband), I got a chance to explore the most beautiful Greek island Santorini. Famous for its infrastructure, I found that island amazingly beautiful and offered some best option in terms of food. Generally when I go out in Europe, being vegetarian I get less options of having some great food. But this island offered me some great dishes. The most common dish which one can find in every Greek restaurant are Greek salad with feta cheese, Fava and Gemista. I tried all the three and liked Gemista very much. I had that in two different restaurants and its really difficult to decide which one was best as both were superb!
Gemista or Yemista which in Greek means ‘filled with’ is juicy, healthy, bursting with fresh and vibrant colours and flavours, is a traditional recipe for Greek stuffed Bell peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables which can be stuffed and baked until soft and nicely browned. The traditional Greek recipe for Gemista can be either vegetarian or non vegetarian depending upon your choice of food.
In Vegetarian version Gemista, filling is made with rice, chopped vegetables and baked in a tomato based sauce. It maybe stuffed with minced meat for their non vegetarian version. There are countless versions of Gemista around Greece and every household has got its own recipe for it. People in Santorini are so nice and helpful as when I expressed my desire to cook and experiment with food, both the chefs gave me the recipe without any hesitation which were almost similar to one another. Here in this recipe I have followed Greek chef’s advice on core cooking, however have added few tips from my own style of cooking like using less oil and spices.
Preparation time : 45 minutes
Cooking time : 60 minutes
Serving : 3
- Risotto Rice – 200 gram
- Tomatoes – 3 Big sized
- Bell peppers – 3
- Eggplant/aubergine – 1 medium sized
- Potatoes – 4 medium sized (cut into wedges)
- Red onions -2 (finely chopped)
- Garlic – 2 cloves(finely chopped)
- Zucchini – 1 (chopped)
- Tomato puree – 2 tablespoon
- Sugar – 2 teaspoon
- Salt – 3 teaspoon
- Black pepper – 2 teaspoon
- Chopped tomatoes – 1 can (Or can use fresh chopped 3 tomatoes)
- Butter – 1 tablespoon
- Parsley – 1 small bunch (chopped)
- Fresh mint – 1 small bunch (chopped)
- Olive oil – 4 tablespoon
First of all, wash thoroughly all the vegetables. Soak rice in 2 cups of water. Chop the potatoes into wedges and dip them in cold water with a pinch of salt. Now slice off the top of the tomatoes; using a spoon remove the flesh of the tomatoes and keep it in a bowl. (The flesh of the tomatoes will be the base for the tomato sauce for the Gemista.) Similarly slice off the top of the peppers and remove the seeds and white parts from the inside.
Place the empty vegetables on a large baking tray. Try to leave the vegetables as thin as possible, leaving just a little of the flesh, but be careful not to poke through their skin. Season the empty vegetables with a pinch of salt and sugar and add a little butter on the bottom of each one.
Cut the eggplant and zucchini in small cubes. Finely chop the garlic cloves and set aside, as we will use them later for the filling of the Gemista.
In a blender add the flesh of the tomatoes, 2 tbsps olive oil, the tomato puree, sugar, one teaspoon salt and pepper and mix to combine. Keep this aside, will use this as sauce for Gemista.
In a saucepan add one tablespoon of oil and sauté the onions, until translucent. Now add zucchini in the saucepan and sauté for one more minute. Now add chopped eggplant and chopped garlic and sauté, until softened. Add the rice and continue sautéing, until it becomes translucent. Pour in chopped tomatoes and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix well. As soon the liquid evaporates,the stuffing is ready. Add chopped mint and parsley and remove the pan from the stove.
Now lets do the final step of assembling the Gemista. Fill the stuffing inside the empty vegetables and place the potatoes wedges, in between the vegetables. Season with one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and pour the tomato juice (sauce) over the vegetables and in the baking tray. Cover the vegetables with their lids and add 1 glass of water.
Cover the Gemista with aluminium foil and bake in preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Then remove the aluminium foil and bake for more 30-35 minutes, until nicely coloured.
Garnish this with some mint leaves and cubed feta cheese and enjoy this greek delicacy in the privacy of your own home.
- You can use other vegetables like Eggplants and Zuccini too to stuff and make Gemista. For this just repeat the same process of cutting the top and scooping out the flesh. This flesh can then be used in preparing the stuffing and you can use the empty vegetables to fill the filling and make Gemista.
- This traditional Greek recipe for Gemista comes under the category of Greek dishes called “Ladera”, which means Greek dishes prepared with olive oil. So make sure to use some good quality olive oil, which will surely enhance the flavour!
- As the peppers are not as juicy as the tomatoes the stuffing of the peppers always comes out a little dry. To avoid that, spoon some extra tomato juice over the peppers and they will become just amazing.
- When cooking the Gemista, make sure to cover them with aluminium foil as the steam allows the rice to cook and the vegetables to soften without them ending up being burnt.