Greek Gemista (Yemista) with rice and mince is one of the most popular and traditional family Greek dishes and certainly my mother’s favourite one. Nutritious yet vibrant and colourful dish to brighten every family table.
Most housewives prepare Greek Gemista (stuffed vegetables) with peppers and tomatoes nowadays. Peppers and tomatoes are not only good fibres sources but they are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium. Vitamin A boosts our immune system to fight infection and is good for your vision. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid helps wound healing and maintain healthy skin, bones, cartilage and blood vessels. Potassium is a mineral essential for cellular function and nerve conduction.
The most widely known way of preparing Greek Yemista (Stuffed vegetables) is in the oven but this is by far not the only way you can prepare them!
Did you know though that Greek Gemista can also be prepared in the pot or hob as well as in a food steamer?
Yes you read right! In fact my mother-in-law prepared Greek Yemista in a pot. I still remember the day we visited her and she had prepared this flavoursome dish for us. Older generation housewives used to prepare a lot of traditional dishes on the hob. Greek Gemista prepared in the pot still retain their juicy earthy flavour just like the oven baked ones.
Nowadays, with steam cookers in our life, why not try my Greek Gemista recipe in the steam cooker? I assure you, you will not be disappointed. Greek Gemista prepared both in the hob are partly boiled and partly steamed, whereas Greek Gemista in a steam cooker are steamed. Preparation of Greek Gemista (Stuffed Vegetables) is the same no matter how you decide to finish off their cooking.
What vegetables can I use in this Greek Gemista (Yemista) with rice and mince recipe?
Gemista or Yemista recipe varies between regions. The dish was originally made with any garden vegetables that can be stuffed. Nowadays the most popular Gemista are made of green peppers and tomatoes.
Who said though that one can only use green peppers? Why not create an equally beautiful but also delicious Greek Gemista recipe with the rest of the colourful peppers? I love using red, orange and yellow ones! Other vegetables to consider include: zucchini (courgettes) and aubergines (eggplants).
When choosing peppers for Greek Gemista choose medium sized ones and not the large ones. The large peppers have tough, thick walls which will not soften during cooking. I chose medium sized peppers as they cook perfectly.
When choosing tomatoes, choose large tomatoes. Bear in mind that tomatoes have soft walls and will require less cooking time.
How do I prepare Greek Gemista (Yemista) with rice and mince?
Start by preparing the vegetables by washing them under running fresh water. Slice the upper parts of the vegetables and keep them aside as lids. Remove the seeds from the inner part of the peppers. Slice the upper part of the tomato and remove its flesh and set is aside as you will use it later in the recipe. Slice the onion finely. Pour oil in a frying pan and caramelise the onions. Season with paprika, black pepper and coriander. Continue by adding the rice and stirring well. Add mince meat and break into small pieces with the use of a fork. It is now time to add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and salt.
Add water in small increments just like you do when you prepare risotto. Once water is absorbed add some more water. I add parsley, just like my mother, at the end of the cooking preparation so that Gemista filling can have an earthy lovely flavour. Cook until the rice is half cooked. Fill up the peppers and tomatoes with a spoon and lastly cover them with their ‘lids’.
Greek Gemista in the hob/or pot
Pour water in a pot and place the stuffed vegetables inside. Pour approximately 350-400ml of water, just enough to steam your Greek Gemista (Yemista) with rice and mince. Water in the pot should reach just below halfway of the pepper’s height. Now, place the filled peppers in the bottom of the pot, as they have tougher exteriors, and lay the tomatoes on top. Cover the pot with the lid and let them cook for approximately 25 minutes.
Greek Gemista in a food steamer
In order to prepare Greek Gemista in a steam cooker, follow the recipes steps and prepare the Gemista filing. Spoon the hollow vegetables and place them in the food steamer. Follow the device’s instructions and steam them to perfection!
For medium sized peppers 15-20 minutes in the food steamer is enough. The larger your vegetables are, the more time they require in the steam cooker. Bear in mind that tomatoes need less time as their wall is softer. Steam them for 10-15 minutes.
Health benefits steamed and boiled Greek Gemista
Steamed and boiled food is healthier as is preserves more nutrients than any other form of cooking. Important nutrients and vitamins are lost in the conventional cooking process. Steaming and boiling also allows vegetables to retain their original flavours. Taste the fresh vegetables in these steamed Greek Gemista. Another great time saving advantage is that of preparation of multiple dishes at the same time. Simply fill up the other compartments of a steamer with vegetables or protein and let it steam away!!
What can I serve Greek Gemista with?
Greek Gemista go very well with a Traditional Greek Feta Salad (Horiatiki), tzatziki (yogurt dip) and sourdough bread.
Greek Gemista (Stuffed Vegetables with Rice and Mince Meat)
- 10 vegetables ( mixture of peppers and tomatoes)
- 250gr mince meat ( veal, beef, pork, turkey or combination of)
- 300gr Carolina rice (or paella rice)
- 500gr water
- 80gr olive oil
- 200gr fresh tomatoes or canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 large onion
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 5-6 sprigs parsley
- 1 chicken stock (optional)
You will need: 1 frying pan, 1 oven dish or steamer or large pot
- To prepare these Greek gemista (Yemista) with rice and mince start by washing the vegetables. Slice off the upper portions of the peppers and tomatoes and remove the seeds. Make sure to set aside these upper portions so that you use them later in the recipe as 'lids'.
- Slice the onion and parsley finely.
- Pour olive oil on a frying pan and sauté the onions for a couple of minutes (2-3 minutes) until they caramelise. Season with paprika, black pepper, coriander and stir until the spices are evenly incorporated.
- Continue by adding the rice and stir until all the rice is smeared with oil . Carry on with adding the mince meat. Break the mince meat with the help of fork into small pieces and mix with the onions and spices. Continue by adding tomatoes, tomatopaste, sugar, salt and stir. Once this has cooked for a bit, add small amounts of water just like you do when you prepare risotto. Once water is absorbed ,add some more, until the rice is half cooked.
- Cook until the rice is half cooked. Add the chopped parsley and cook for 1-2 minutes more. The Gemista filling should be juicy enough as it will be further cooked in the oven/ steamer or pot.Bear in mind, that if you are using arborio rice, cooking time is less.
- Fill up the peppers and tomatoes with the use of a spoon and cover them with their 'lids'.
Oven baked Gemista:
- Pour 400mls of water in the oven dish and place the stuffed vegetables in the dish. Bake them at 190C or 374F for 35-40 minutes in the middle rack of the oven.
Gemista in the Steam cooker:
- Place the stuffed vegetables in the steam cooker and steam away. Steam for approximately 15-20 minutes for peppers and 10-15 minutes for tomatoes.
Gemista in the hob or pot:
- Pour 250mls of water in a large pot and place the stuffed vegetables inside the pot. Place the peppers first with the tomatoes ( more fragile) resting on top of the peppers. Cover the pot with the lid and cook for 20-25 minutes.