Gemista – Greek slow cooked stuffed vegetables

May 27, 2010

Gemista

I am on a roll with Greek food. No matter where I go I seek out Greek restaurants hoping that they will have an old Greek granny in the kitchen making traditional Greek food.

Unfortunately more often than not I am disappointed. One of the best Greek restaurants I have ever been to was actually not in Greece. It was in Balmain in Sydney and was called Artemis’s Village.

For many years it was my favourite restaurant. I felt like I was having dinner at my Greek friends house eating proper “home cooking”.

Great Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie) and Tiropita (cheese pie), amazing Saganaki prawns (large fresh prawns in a garlicky tomato sauce with chunks of feta dotted through) and Gemista (stuffed veg).

Unfortunately Artemis (the Greek mama in the kitchen) retired and the family sold the restaurant. It was taken over but was never the same….sob sob.

I judge all Greek restaurants on the quality of their Gemista.

Firstly I will not even bother going into the restaurant unless they have Gemista and secondly it must be vegetarian – why do some restaurants put mince in their stuffed veg – yuck!

I have successfully made stuffed tomatoes many times before but have been unsuccessful with my stuffed peppers. So I had a little google search the other day and scanned a few recipes. One thing I picked up from my searches was once the peppers were stuffed and put in the oven a glass of water was added to the roasting dish. This makes the peppers nice and soft and also prevents them burning.

With this new piece of culinary genius I had to tackle stuffed peppers one more time.

Ingredients

8 large ripe tomatoes (6 for stuffing and 2 for the sauce)
2 large courgettes
6 small to medium peppers (I used red and yellow ones)
2 medium brown onions
4 large cloves of garlic
1 large glass of dry white wine
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Approx 1 dessert spoon of fresh thyme leaves
250 grams of Arborio rice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Pre heat oven to 190 degrees celsius.

Onion and garlic into the pot

Finely dice onions and garlic and saute in a heavy based pan with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Scooping out the inside of tomatoes

Cut the “bums” off 6 of the tomatoes to make a lid, scrape out the insides of the tomatoes and add to a bowl.

Sprinkle with salt and leave upside down on a plate.

Peppers deseeded and caps cut off

Cut the tops off the peppers and discard the seeds. Sprinkle with salt and place upside down on the plate alongside the tomatoes.

Removing the centres of the courgettes

Cut the courgettes into 3 leaving the stem on, carve out the middle of the courgette, chop and keep to the side. Sprinkle inside with salt and add to plate.

Once onions and garlic are cooked, soft and sweet with no colour add the rice and stir through until coated with oil.

Add wine to rice, onions and garlic

Add wine and reduce.

Chopped tomatoes added to the rice mix

Chop up the insides of the tomatoes and the 2 left over tomatoes and add to the pot with the chopped up courgette insides too.

Turn the heat down and simmer until the rice has cooked for about 10 mins. Try not to add water there should be enough liquid. However if it is really drying out you can add a splash of water (make sure the heat is not on too high).

The rice should be cooked but still have quite a bite too it (more of a bite than you would have with a risotto).

Add chopped herbs

Finely chop the parsley and mint and add to the rice along with the thyme leaves.

Taste rice for seasoning add salt and pepper if you need.

Stuffing peppers with rice

Stuffing courgettes with rice mix

Fill the tomatoes, peppers and courgettes with the rice mix and put the lids on the peppers and tomatoes – make sure you do not over fill the veg as the rice will continue to expand as it cooks in the oven and it may split the skins.

Stuffed veg ready for the oven

Pack stuffed vegetables into a ceramic dish with at least 5 cm sides.

Add a glass of water and a drizzle a good quantity of olive oil over the veg.

Pop it in the oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the peppers are soft/collapsed.

Stuffed peppers, tomatoes and courgettes

I covered mine with foil for the 1st half of the time so that it steamed too but you do not have to do this.

Gemista

Serve with a green salad and a glass of chilled red wine.

Close your eyes and think of Greece……

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