Yemista or gemista which means ‘stuffed’ are tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, capsicum or even potatoes filled with a perfect proportion of rice, herbs and minced beef. Paired with your favourite seasonal vegetable the options are endless. This recipe is traditional and authentic with ingredients readily available in Australia.
Greece is synonymous for dishes which feature fresh, ripe vegetables showcasing the summer bounty. The variety of vegetables used is long, and the list of dishes is equally endless and are a beautiful celebration of just how colourful and sweet vegetables are.
Traditional greek dishes are a perfect way to serve vegetables to your family consistently and in so many ways your dinner meals would never be boring. Whether, gluten free or vegan there is a dish waiting to be made.
To select your vegetables, use seasonal produce. I like to use tomatoes that are larger in size and have a wonderful red ripe colour. In Greece, large ripe flavourful tomatoes are prolific and are used for this dish.
In yemista, the rice is not pre-boiled, so will expand when they are baked in the oven. This means, don’t overstuff your vegetables.
Grill your vegetables upside down and turn to the side – once hulled, with olive oil rubbed on before stuffing with rice. This step is crucial, for caramelization to occur, and prevents the vegetable tasting soggy and boiled.
Cover the prepared dish with foil for the first hour. This will help the rice cook and soften. If your using wholemeal rice which is not strictly traditional covering with foil is important as the cooking time of wholemeal rice is much longer. The last 30-45 minutes, the stuffed vegetable dish is uncovered.
The hulled vegetables are traditionally fried before stuffing and baking. This really is not necessary and I find rubbing the outer skin with just a little olive oil and grilling actually gives a better result.
As well this is a dairy free version of yemista, which means the focus is on the fresh ripe vegetables and plenty of herbs. The taste is truly exception without the white sauce.
The type of rice you use, whether plain white rice, brown long grain, basmati, jasmine , low GI wholemeal etc will affect the cooking time. Make sure you have enough liquid in your rice mix when stuffing.
Ok… Now that I have given as many tips as I can think of make this incredibly tasty dish. 🙂
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Pre-heat oven to 170 degree Celsius fan forced.
4 medium – capsicums
6 medium-large tomatoes
4 potatoes cut into wedges
1 bunch mint, finely chopped be generous!
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
6 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons parmesan ( optional for vegan version)
3/4 cup long grain rice – wholemeal low GI rice used in the picture
3 cups water
Extra tomato sauce for serving ( optional )
250ml tomato passata
1 garlic clove
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cut the tops of the capsicum and tomatoes. Set aside. They will form the lid of each stuffed vegetable and assist the filling to cook.
Hull the tomatoes, being careful not puncture the base and reserve the pulp of the tomatoes. Discard the capsicum seeds and inner membrane. Process tomato pulp.
Place the vegetables upside down, and spray with olive oil. Rub, the surface of each vegetable with the olive oil to ensure they are equally coated.
Place in the oven, under the grill setting not too close to the grill elements. Grill for five 2 minutes each side. Remove from the oven, Don’t burn the skin.
Place 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saucespan and brown the mince meat. Ensure the mince does not form clumps. Add the onion and garlic and stir through. When they are transparent add a tablespoon of tomato paste and reserved tomato pulp from the hulled tomatoes.
Add one cup of water and allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes in low heat.
Add the herbs, seasoning and rice and perhaps if required 1/2 – 1 cup of extra water.
Allow to simmer gently in low to medium heat for five minutes – with the lid mostly on. If your using wholemeal rice this stage is important.
Add remainder of liquid. Add a little of olive oil onto your baking dish. Stuff each vegetable three quarters of the way.
The proportion of liquid, herbs, rice and mince should be just right at this stage.
The more Mint in the stuffing the better.
Arrange the tomatoes and capsicums in the baking dish so that they all fit comfortably standing up. Place the potatoes in between the arranged vegetables and cover with the lids.
Any remainder olive oil, pour on top and over the potatoes. Pour 1/4 cup water around vegetables.
Sprinkle liberally with cracked pepper, salt and parmesan cheese.
Cover the dish with foil and bake covered for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Until your rice is cooked through. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes to 45 minutes to add some colour on top.
Add the ingredients listed for the tomato sauce and simmer gently on low heat for 10 minutes.
Poor a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce on your servings and then carefully place the stuffed tomato or capsicum over the sauce. Arrange the baked potatoes as preferred.
I use some blanched young vine leaves to serve as sometimes I have also wrapped larger vine leaves with the rice mix and cooked along with the stuffed vegetables.
Decorate with herb flowers if you have some.
You may like to try the stuffed eggplant recipe called papoutsakia.