Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers – Gemista

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Olympic Palace Hotel on the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes.  The Executive Chef and his team, were working tirelessly to produce utterly delicious food, day after day.  It is certainly no easy task producing this level of food constantly, add in the hot climate and long hours and I think many of us would be exhausted.  To work at this level you have to have skill and dedication to your work. Eating Gemista in Rhodes

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that they must have a real enthusiasm and passion, for the food and ingredients they were using. It was a true pleasure to see!  Being a person who loves to immerse herself in the culture of a country, I could not resist getting the opportunity to meet with the food and beverage team, and find out more about their superb Greek dishes.  I managed to get a recipe from them too, so if you fancy trying their “Gemista” pronounced yemista then scroll down.

Gemista - Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

Still to this day, it never ceases to amaze me at how many tourists go to a country, and yet do not try the national dishes?  To me, the whole point of visiting a country is to explore not just the surroundings, but their way of life.  So I urge you to be a little more adventurous and head to the specialist food sections and restaurants, where local and national cuisine is on offer.  Great food is worth exploring!  For more information on the Olympic Palace Hotel (which is a super place to stay by the way) go to:-

www.olympicpalacehotel.com

 

Greek Feta CheeseEmily at workExecutive Chef and the Food & Beverage Manager of the Olympic Palace Hotel With Emily

Ingredients

6 large tomatoes
3 Green Peppers
1 Egg plant chopped small dice (Aubergine in the UK)
1 Pumpkin chopped small dice (Small Butternut Squash in the UK)
12 Tbl of Carolina Rice (Long Grain Rice in UK)
1 White onion finely chopped
Salt & Ground Pepper
1 1/2 Cups of Olive Oil
1 Leek
Handful of fresh parsley finely chopped
Handful of fish mint finely chopped
1kg Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky moon shape

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Wash the vegetables.  Slice a 1cm layer from the top of the tomatoes and peppers.  This makes a lid, so keep them for later.  Remove the inside of the tomato (carefully so you do not split the skin) and reserve the insides for the next step.  Discard the inside of the peppers.

Sprinkle each tomato with a little salt and turn upside down on a tray so that any excess liquid can come out.

In a deep pan take 1\2 cup of olive oil and fry the chopped onion and leek for around 2-3 minutes.  Then add the aubergine and butternut squash and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Add the rice and combine all together well.  With a hand blender, blitz half of the insides of the tomatoes.  Add this puree to the pan, along with 1 cup of water.  Add some salt and pepper for seasoning, and continue cooking on a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and add in the chopped herbs.  The filling will be quite loose and juicy.

Place the mixture to 3/4 height of the tomatoes and peppers.  You need a little room at the top, as when the rice cooks it will expand.  Place the lids on the peppers and tomatoes, and place in a deep baking dish close to each other.  Place the potatoes around the edge.

Blend the other half of the tomato insides with the remaining cup of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and then place over the potatoes.

Cover the baking dish with tin foil and place into the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.  Then remove the tin foil and continue cooking in the oven for a further 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check that it is cooked by gently prodding the potatoes with a knife.

This dish is served both hot and cold in Greece.  In fact they often like it at room temperature the following day.  This will intensify the flavour even more.

Needless to say it is delicious with feta cheese, but another way is to remove the tops and add a slice of mozzarella, then place under the grill until it melts.  However if you are vegan then you can take away any cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vegetable Chilli

Whilst on my health and fitness regime, I am enjoying making dishes that are not just filling and satisfying but super tasty too.  This vegetable chilli is great for any guests that you may have, that are vegan or vegetarian, plus it is a lighter style of chilli for the summer months.

Please note that honey is optional.  I use a brand of tinned cherry tomatoes that are quite sharp and acidic.  I use a small amount of honey to balance the flavours out.  If your tinned tomatoes are more mellow, then you will not need to use honey.  I also added in a few mushrooms that I had left over.  Those who know me, know that I hate food waste, so if you have any other veggies such as courgette etc, do not be afraid to mix and match.

Calories were approx 420 cals – this was with 60g of Brown rice with Quinoa, which I find more filling than white rice.

IMG_0858

 

Ingredients – SERVES 2

Small spray of fry light in a wok or non stick pan.
1 Onion
1 Clove of garlic
1 tsp Garam Masala
Pinch of Chilli Flakes – if you like hot food add more
1/2 Red pepper slices
1/2 Green pepper slices
1 Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 Vegetable stock cube in 150 mls of water
1 400g Tin of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Optional: Mushrooms/Courgettes – 1 tbsp of runny honey (see note above)

Heat your wok/pan and spray with a little fry light.  Then add your onions and garlic and heat through until the onion begins to soften, making sure that you keep moving the mixture so the onions don’t go brown. Is using any mushrooms add them at this stage.

Add the garam masala and chilli flakes and mix in for a minute or so.  Then add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, peppers and kidney beans.  If using soft veggies like courgette etc. add them at this stage too.

Allow the mixture to bubble, making sure that you stir occasionally.  The mixture will eventually reduce down so you have a nice sauce.  It might take 15 minutes or longer.  I will often make this up in advance, and it freezes pretty good too.  Check for acidity of the sauce at this point, and add in the runny honey if needed.  Stir through well.

Serve with rice, preferably a brown variety.

 

 

 

Toad In the Hole

It’s jolly well freezing here in the UK, and so I wanted to give you a recipe that should warm you up, and which children love.  You could substitute meat sausages for vegetarian ones too.  Check out the next recipe for Colcannon which goes fabulously with this dish!

toad in the hole

 

Ingredients

8 pork sausages
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
225g plain flour
4 eggs
250ml milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

Pour the oil into the bottom of a baking dish, and arrange the sausages over
in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs and half of the milk until smooth. Gradually mix in the rest of the milk until a smooth batter forms. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the sausages from the oven, and pour the batter over them until the sausages are 3/4 covered. Return to the oven, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the centre is risen and golden.

Great with onion gravy and colcannon.

 

Meatballs & Spaghetti

Loved by adults as much as children, this has been a firm favourite family dish in our household,  for many years.  You could buy ready made meatballs if you are pushed for time, but this recipe is so you can have a bash at making your own. A mixture of pork and mince beef is used so that the meatballs don’t dry out.  You could use just beef if you so wished but they will be a drier texture.

 

meatballs and spaghetti

 

Ingredients

Olive oil
400g minced pork
400g minced beef
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
5 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese – plus extra for garnish
2 eggs beaten
Salt and black pepper

Sauce Ingredients

800g of tinned chopped tomatoes
690ml jar of passata (sieved tomatoes)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
10 fresh basil leaves, plus extra to garnish
Optional – 1 tbsp sugar.

Preheat the oven to 220 Degrees C. Rub a large baking sheet with the olive oil and set aside. Place the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, parmesan and eggs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mix gently with a wooden spoon until everything is thoroughly combined.

Take small golf ball sized amounts of the meat mixture and roll into equal sized balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet and then bake for 12 minutes.  Baking rather than frying the meatballs off, helps the meatballs to retain their shape and not break up.  Plus you get a lovely colour to them.

To make up the sauce, put the tomatoes, passata and oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the chilli flakes and some salt. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the sauce, if it is too sharp for you, then add the optional sugar.

Carefully place the meatballs in the tomato sauce making sure you partially cover the pan again. Simmer for 30 minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally. If the sauce is getting too thick, add a little hot water from a kettle.  During this time, cook your spaghetti according to pack instructions. To serve, scatter over a few fresh torn basil leaves and additional parmesan if you wish.

Quick Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

There are times when you want to cook something tasty, but don’t want to slave over the stove making sauces and the like.  This is a good dish that you can make up pretty quickly with the illusion you have been slaving away at it all day.  Just make sure you test for seasoning.  If of course you don’t want to cheat with the bechamel sauce then by all means make you own.  I made it this way, to help a lady who gets in a blind panic making sauces.  She also hates the frozen ready meal options of this dish that are often available.  I agree with her that the frozen ready made taste, is just not the same as a good homemade version!

spinach and ricotta cannelloni

 

Ingredients

500g ricotta cheese
150g spinach leaves, chopped
2tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼tsp nutmeg
6 sheets fresh (not dry) lasagne
500ml shop-bought béchamel sauce (or you can make your own)
50g freshly grated Parmesan – you can use vegetarian variation if you wish.

Heat the oven to 200ºC. Put the ricotta into a bowl and break it up with a fork. Add the spinach, basil and garlic and mix well. Sprinkle with nutmeg and season well with salt and ground black pepper.

Cut each fresh lasagne sheet in half (if the large sheets). Spread 2-3tbsp of the ricotta and spinach mixture down the centre of each then roll into a tube, ensure the edges overlap slightly.

Spread a layer of béchamel sauce over the base of an ovenproof dish Place the cannelloni tubes with the seam-side down, in a single layer on the dish. Pour over the rest of the béchamel sauce and then sprinkle the freshly grated Parmesan over the top. Bake the cannelloni in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

I love to serve this with a crisp green salad.