Maria’s Yemista

A while back, I posted my recipe for my GREEK YEMISTA (or stuffed capsicums & tomatoes) which is a delicious vegetarian dish with fresh fragrant herbs, pinenuts and tiny sweet currents. Now I have another version to share with you. This is one my mum used to make that I loved as a child.

Yemista was a very special dish growning up. It’s a dish I would often crave for, but only got to eat in summer. Why?  Because back in Greece, the food they cook is based on what is in season and, as Yemista is made using tomatoes and capsicums, it is considered a summer dish.

I have such fond memories of my mum picking plump red tomatoes and crisp sweet capsicums from our little vegetable garden in Summer.

Mum and dad would spend hours in their veggie garden pulling weeds, planting seedlings and watering by hand. But it was so worth it, because the vegetables and herbs we ate tasted so much better than the commercially grown ones.

The main difference between this recipe and mine, is that mum’s has minced beef in it, making it a more substantial meal for meat lovers.

The generous amount of fresh mint, parsley and oregano, makes this dish unbelievably fragrant as well as tasty.

What you need

  • 6 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 6 small red capsicums
  • 1 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 onion – finely chopped
  • 500g minced lean beef
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley – finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint – finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup medium grain rice – uncooked
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Serves 5 – 6

What to do

Heat oven to 180°C (350°F)

Rinse the tomatoes and capsicums under cold water. Cut off the stems from the capsicum.

Cut a thin slice from the top of the tomatoes and capsicums. Reserve these pieces to use later as the lids.

Remove the membranes and seeds from inside each capsicum. Place the capsicums in a baking dish, drizzle with a little oil and bake for 20 minutes to soften a little. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In the meantime, use a spoon to scoop out the pulp from the tomatoes. Reserve the pulp for later.

Add the tomatoes to the tray of capsicums. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomatoes and capsicums and put aside.

Heat ½ the oil in a pan on a medium-high heat, add the minced beef and cook until browned.

Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the rice, stir well and cook for 5 minutes.

Chop the reserved tomato pulp and add it to the pan. Then add all the herbs and ½ cup hot water to the pan, stir well.

Season with salt and pepper.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes

Fill the tomatoes and capsicums with rice mixture, leaving room for the rice to swell.

Replace the reserved lids and arrange in a shallow baking dish.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes and capsicums. Add 1 cup of hot water to the bottom of the  baking dish

Place in the oven and bake for 1¼ hours. Baste the vegetables with juices from the bottom of the baking dish occasionally.

You may need to cover the vegetables with aluminium foil if they start to colour too much.

Serve this dish with creamy Greek yogurt and crusty bread for a very satisfying meal.