I adore Greek food and this is a dish I first tried on the island of Crete, in a lovely little village called Gouves about six or seven years ago. I've since experimented and made my own versions of 'Gemistes' (stuffed vegetables) and I think this version is the definitive one.
It goes down well with veggies and meat-lovers alike and you could of course adapt it to include some minced beef, pork or lamb or make it slightly more indulgent by including some feta cheese which will melt and make it unctuously delicious. You can also use bell peppers instead, but I prefer the texture that the tomatoes take on once baked. This is one of the many dishes I make for 'Greek night' at my house and my girlfriends love it - it transports us to sunny holiday memories. This makes enough for six people and is best served with some 'horta' or salad leaves and some Tzatziki.
Gemistes Greek Stuffed Tomatoes
Gemistes as part of a Greek feast
- 6 beef tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1 courgette
- 1 green pepper
- 1 red or yellow pepper
- 1 tbsp salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- Handful of fresh mint
- Enough rice to fill the tomatoes (will depend on the size - I used about 100g dried rice here)
- Fresh vegetable stock (optional)
- Firstly place the rice on to cook - preferably in some fresh vegetable stock for added flavour but in salted water is also fine.
- Next carefully slice off the tops of the tomatoes, retaining the green part as it just looks nicer at the end. Use a sharp knife to gently score around the inside of the tomatoes to loosen up the inside, then scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon and discard. Add a tiny amount of salt to the inside of each tomato then turn upside down on a plate to allow some of the moisture to trickle away.
- Next dice the onion, courgette and peppers and crush the garlic and add to a pan on a low heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Gently saute for about five minutes until just softened
- Chop the fresh mint finely.
- Once the rice is cooked, drain away any remaining water, place into a bowl and use a fork to fluff up a little. Add the mint and the sauteed vegetables, the pinch of salt and black pepper and stir thoroughly so everything is evenly distributed.
- Place the tomatoes into a baking dish or tray, the right way up now, and scoop even amounts of the rice mixture into each, right up to the top. Use a spoon to tap firmly down so the tomato is completely full of delicious rice.
- Place the lids of each tomato on top and then loosely cover the whole dish with tinfoil to protect the skins from charring.
- Place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes when they come out of the oven as they will be piping hot, and then serve with your accompaniments and preferably a crisp glass of white wine or a bottle of Mythos Greek beer and allow yourself to be transported to holidays gone by.