Greek “Gemista” or “Yemista” is our family’s favourite dish to serve throughout the year. It’s a very famous Mediterranean dish but you can find in other cuisines cooked slightly differently. It translates from Greek as “ones that are filled”. They are filled with rice and you can use vegetables like red/green capsicums, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants etc. It’s packed with flavour, healthy and you can satisfy almost every member of the family. Many families cook this dish differently. I like to keep things simple and use different kind of fillings such as meat, seafood (diced calamari or prawns) and of course a vegetarian option with just rice and tomatoes, lots of herbs and nuts for a bit of texture. I love to fill my vegetables with a variety of ingredients and every time the dish looks and tastes amazing but different. So the recipe i am sharing with you today is with ground meat filling.
(Serves 4, cook time 1.5hrs)
6 -7 medium size red/green capsicums
500g mince beef (lean)
1 large brown onion (diced)
1/2 cup of Basmati rice (can be substituted with long grain but Basmati adds a special flavour to the dish)
5-6 large potatoes, cut in quarters lengthwise
4 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped (peel 4 -5 extra for the sauce)
2 tbsp tomato paste (in addition, you will need 2 tbsp for the sauce)
Salt and pepper
Greek yogurt to serve
In a large frying pan, heat up a bit of olive oil, add chopped brown onion and garlic, cook until lightly browned, add minced beef stirring for about 10 mins, add seasoning (salt and pepper), fresh parsley, oregano and cook until lightly browned. Add 2 tbsp of tomato paste and a cup of water, stirring and cooking until most of the liquid is reduced and sauce thickened. Please make sure its not watery.
At the same time, in a medium size pot, boil 1/2 Basmati rice for about 3 mins, it has to be on a hard side and not cooked through. Drain all the water and add the rice to the meat mixture, stirring through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The reason we don’t cook rice all the way, it will be cooking in the oven, otherwise the chances it will be raw and unpleasant to eat.
Preparing the capsicums
Preheat the oven 180 degrees fan enforced. You will need to get a large deep baking tray or 2 medium ones depending on how many capsicums you are making. Wash and cut the capsicums (about 1.5-2 cm from the top), do not throw the “hats”, you will attach them to the capsicums and bake together. They will look amazing on the plate with their “hats”on. Clean the capsicums, removing the flesh and seeds. Arrange them on the baking dish. Peel the potatoes, cut them lengthwise in quarters. Spread them around the capsicums. Add a few cloves of garlic, and add olive oil. Olive oil is important to this dish as it forms part of the sauce, so be generous with oil. It will give your dish “melt in the mouth” effect.
Here is a tip: if you have a left over meat and rice mixture add it to the bottom of the tray together with the potatoes, you will enjoy eating it with potatoes. Fill your capsicums with the meat mixture so the filling is not filled all the way to the top, leave 1 – 1.5 cm empty at the top, we need space for the rice to expand when in the oven.
In a separate bowl, dilute 1 cup of water with 2 tbsp of tomato paste, stirring well, season with salt and pepper, add some dry some oregano, mix well. Add the sauce to the baking dish, it has to cover the potatoes but not all the way, so you can see top of the potatoes still.
Baking the dish
Cover the tray with baking paper and aluminium foil and put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes at the temperature of 180 degrees fan enforced. After half an hour being in the oven, remove the baking paper and aluminium foil from the tray, reduce the temperature to 160 degrees and bake for another 30-40 minutes until sauce thickens and capsicums browned at the top. Remove from the oven, let the dish to rest for about 15 minutes.
Arrange your capsicums and potatoes on a serving plate ready to plate. Drizzle potatoes and capsicums with fresh lemon juice. Serve capsicums as a warm or a cold dish, whichever you prefer. I love adding 2-3 spoonful of Greek yogurt. Enjoy the dish.