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.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

Spicy Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup

In the colder months I love to eat a spicy soup.  This one hits the spot quite nicely.  If you want more heat just increase the chilli.

spicy butternut squash soup

 

Ingredients

3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp of chopped chilli
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1.5kg butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
400ml tin organic coconut milk
800ml of vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

Optional: 1tsp chopped parsley & croutons
Optional: 4 Tbsp Single Cream

Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they soften. Stir in the turmeric, garam masala, and ground coriander. Gently fry for a minute or so.

Place the butternut squash into the onions along with a large pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly until the squash begins to soften.

Add the coconut milk and the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Cover and boil gently for 20 minutes or until the squash is very soft. Then liquidise the soup.  If the soup feels a bit too thick, just add a splash of boiling water from your kettle, until it is at your desired consistency.

To serve, add the lemon juice and season to taste. If you are not a vegan you can add a swirl of single cream before serving, you can also add some parsley and croutons if you wish.

Coconut Bean Soup

Low fat, spicy and packed full of good ingredients!  It is also a vegan recipe, so makes a good change to be off meat and let the body have a rest.  This recipe is popular in Africa and I understand it is particularly popular in Tanzania.  Today I made this for the Victory Health & Food Group and nothing was left over.  We decided to leave the salt out of the recipe, for those on a low salt diet (blood pressure) but you can always add a little for yourself.

 

IMG_0100

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 green or red pepper chopped
8 tomatoes chopped
1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
1 x 410g can of kidney beans drained
800ml of water
100g of cooked brown rice
2 tsp of medium strength curry powder
2 chillis deseeded and chopped (use 1 chilli if you are not keen on heat)
Salt and pepper

Place the olive oil in a large pan let it melt, then add the onion and pepper for about 5 minutes on a moderate heat. Do not let the onions colour too much.  Add the tomatoes, curry powder, chilli’s (if using) and fry for a further 3 minutes.  Then add the coconut milk, kidney beans, salt and pepper and water.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the rice and cook for a further 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Lentil Soup

My husband who is Scottish, is a huge fan of this soup.  He is insistent that it has to have a ham hock in it, which I have to agree does impart some lovely flavour.  If you are using ham hock, then go easy on the salt as the meat flavours the dish significantly.  If you are vegan or vegetarian then if you omit the ham hock, it will taste fine without it.  Lentils are a great source of fibre which help to lower cholesterol, and are also good at helping regulate blood sugar levels.  Not only that, but they contain seven important minerals and B vitamins.  So not only is this dish tasty, but it has some great health benefits too!

red lentils

  • 340 g red split lentils
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 small cooked ham hock.
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced
  • 3 carrots, diced.
  • 3 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • A good couple of handfuls of diced swede/turnip 
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1.5 litres of hot vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soften the onions, carrot, swede/turnip, garlic, bay leaf and celery in a heavy based pot over a medium heat for around 3 minutes, ensuring you keep stirring.  Then add the lentils and ham, followed by the hot stock.  Simmer gently for 30 mins.

Remove the bay leaf and carefully remove the ham hock.  Take the meat from the bone and stir it gently through the soup.  It is lovely served with warmed bread.