I love to stuff food. Mainly I like stuffing it in my mouth, but on some occasions I like stuffing other things like vine leaves, eggplants or mushrooms. So I cooked “Gemista”. The direct translation of the word is “Stuffed” and this is what they are. This is not a 30-minute recipe but it’s so worth your time in the kitchen. It’s not a difficult dish to prepare. In fact, I find that stuffing veggies is far easier than stuffing a chicken or a pork loin (don’t get me started on the kitchen twine!).Usually “Gemista” are stuffed courgettes, tomatoes, bell peppers or eggplants. The filling is traditionally mince and rice but I cooked mine with mushrooms, bulgur wheat and feta cheese. They are lock-the-door-and-switch-off-your-phone delicious! The filling is so flavourful, with a delicious tang from the feta cheese and a nice crunch from the buttery pistachios.
If you have leftover filling then stuff another tomato or a bell pepper. Parboiled cabbage leaves are also great. If you are done with the stuffing, throw the filling in a pot with another half a cup of bulgur wheat and 1 cup water. Simmer covered until bulgur wheat is cooked and you will have a really flavourful pilaf.
- 12 courgettes
- 4 firm tomatoes
- 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 x 200 grams «Mitsides» tomato passata
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- salt and pepper
For the filling
- 1 large ripe tomato
- 1 red bell pepper
- 4 Tbs olive oil
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped (1 large)
- 2 cups mushrooms, chopped in small pieces
- 1 cup carrot, grated
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 cup «Mitsides» bulgur wheat (blue pack)
- ½ cup coriander, chopped
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
- ¾ cup roughly crushed feta cheese
- 2 Tbs pistachios, roughly chopped
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 220 C. Trim the top of the courgettes and discard. Then slice 2 x 5mm slices from the top. Keep slices in a bowl. With the help of a vegetable peeler or an apple corer, scoop out the flesh from the courgettes leaving a 3 mm thick “shell”. Take care not to dig a hole at the bottom.
Put courgettes in a baking pan (use the one you intend to roast the “Gemista”; less dirty dishes) and drizzle with 2 Tbs olive oil. Turn them around using your hands to distribute the oil. Place pan in the preheated oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Reduce oven temperature to 200 C.
Take the tomatoes and slice the top off. Keep the top, it will be used as a lid when you bake them. Take a spoon and scoop out the flesh and seeds. Keep flesh and seeds in a bowl.
Make the filling: Quarter the tomato and put in the bowl of a foodprocessor or blender. Remove the seeds from the bell pepper and add that to the bowl. Add the reserved tomato flesh and seeds. Blend on high speed until liquified. If measured you should have approximately 2 cups of juice. If its a little less don’t worry, if its a lot less, maybe your tomato was too small and you need to blend another one.
In a large frying pan, add the 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft and begins to colour. Add the mushrooms and grated carrot. Cook for a few minutes longer until mushrooms and carrot are soft and cooked.
Increase heat to medium-high and pour in the white wine. Cook for about a minute to let the alcocol evaporate. Add the bulgur wheat and stir through.
Take pan off the heat and add the coriander, parsley, feta cheese and the crushed tomatoes with the bell pepper. Season with the cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir in the pistachios. You are now ready to stuff!
Assemble the dish: Stuff the courgettes using a spoon. Stop about 5 mm from the top as the filling will expand as it cooks. Stuff the tomatoes and cover with their «lid».
Place tomatoes lid side up in a baking pan. If you are having trouble keeping your tomatoes upright, just slice the bottom slightly. Lay the courgettes on their side in the same baking pan. Use the courgette slices to slightly cover the opening of the stuffed courgettes (you don’t have to be too thorough; If they don’t cover the opening it’s still ok. Just put them in the pan to roast with the rest).
Drizzle over the stuffed vegetables the 1/3 cup olive oil, the vegetable broth and the tomato passata. Season with salt and pepper. Bake at 200 C for 45 minutes. Turn the courgettes over and continue baking for 30 minutes longer.
Take pan out of the oven and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Serve «gemista» on a platter with some thick greek yogurt on the side and a leafy green salad.