I hope that summer has made an appearance where you live (well, I mean Northern hemisphere as if it appeared in the Southern it would mean a serious global warming crisis come early), but in case the weather still has to take it up a notch, I’ve decided to bring a touch of hot Greek summer to your kitchen.
Today’s dish is one of my favourite Greek dishes: Yemista – Greek stuffed peppers. Gemista simply means stuffed vegetables so there are loads of variations of this dish. It can be stuffed peppers, tomatoes, globe courgettes or aubergines, anything that’s, well, ‘stuffable’. The filling usually has either meat or cheese in it, but mine doesn’t and it tastes every bit as delicious. The most popular type of this dish that I’ve come across here has been stuffed tomatoes and peppers, but as I prefer the taste of peppers I’ve made a whole dish of those:).
This dish reminds me of when Duncan and I came to Greece for a short holiday in 2012. I had countless versions of Gemista during that holiday as I fell in love with this dish (and Greece) then. We were so smitten by the place that when the holiday ended, we came back to London with a resolution to move to Paros.
To begin with, no one took us seriously. Our family and friends thought it’s a silly decision made on the spur of the moment and that we weren’t going to go through with it, but they were wrong. It did take us 6 months more than we had planned to get our s**t together and we both questioned our sanity at one point or another… But we did it and despite some ups and downs we are so glad we did. We learned loads, it changed us in so many ways and we realised that doing something you truly love and are passionate about is totally worth ditching a soul-destroying (albeit well paid) job for.
I’ve always had a bit of creative streak in me, but lack of confidence and fear has stopped me from exploring my options. Now, I get to use the right side of my brain on a daily basis and, at last, I don’t feel like a square peg in a round hole – something I’ve felt for years. So anyways, back to peppers. They are really tasty, filling and light at the same time. If you have time, make them a day in advance as it gives the flavours a chance to mingle and the dish ends up tasting so much better.
PS: If you make my yemista Greek stuffed peppers, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @lazycatkitchen and use the #lazycatkitchen hashtag. I love seeing your takes on my recipes!
- makes: 10
- 10 bell peppers
- 200 g white, medium-grain rice
- 2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes (4 medium tomatoes) OR 2 x 400 g tins
- ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 20 Kalamata olives, de-stoned & chopped
- ¼ cup raisins, chopped (optional)
- ¼ cup pine nuts (or sliced almonds), roasted
- ¼ cup / 60 ml / 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 heaped tsp salt
- generous amount of freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½-1 tsp hot chilli flakes (optional)
- ¼ cup / 60 ml / 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup peeled and chopped tomatoes (1 medium tomato)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup water
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Set the oven to 180° C.
- Wash your peppers, cut 1-2 cm off the top and keep the tops. Make sure you don’t cut too close to the base of the stalk as it may become loose and you want the tops left intact to keep the filling nice and moist. De-seed the peppers and arrange them in a baking tray so that they fit quite snugly – if you don’t have enough to fill the tray, make sure you pick peppers that are stable as you don’t want them to collapse half-way through the cooking time. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar at the bottom of each pepper.
- OPTIONAL STEP: You can blitz tomatoes if you don’t want to have bits of tomato in your stuffing, I usually chop mine very finely and it does the job. You could also saute your onion and garlic before you incorporate them into the filling.
- Mix all of the filling ingredients together. Spoon the filling into the peppers, but be sure not to overfill – the mixture should be roughly level with the cut so that there is room for expansion under the tops. Put the tops back on.
- In a mixing jug combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Pour the sauce to the bottom of the tray, in amongst the peppers.
- Cover the tops of peppers with a piece of foil and put the peppers into the oven for 90 mins. After 45 mins remove the foil so that the tops get a chance to brown nicely. Check if rice is cooked before removing from the oven, if it’s still a little hard, leave the peppers in a warm (switched off) oven for another 30 minutes to finish off cooking.
- Traditionally, Gemista is served at room temperature rather than warm so allow peppers to cool down before eating. They’re best enjoyed with a green salad and some crusty bread.