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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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.

Asparagus Soup

Roll on the better weather when we can enjoy this fabulous soup when it comes to asparagus season.  There is nothing like the taste of locally grown asparagus which usually appears from April-June.  Although the fickle British climate means you have to keep your eyes peeled for when it does start to emerge, but for an asparagus lover like me it is well worth the wait.    You can use foreign grown stuff, but I try to avoid it where possible and prefer to wait until it comes into season here and support my local farmers and growers.

 

asparagus soup

 

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Knob of Butter
450g Asparagus, finely chopped
1 Large onion finely chopped
500ml Chicken stock (Hot)
Salt & Pepper
Some double cream to swirl on top

Optional – Croutons

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Then add in the onion and fry for four minutes, until transparent. Take the asparagus and add it into the pan and allow to cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes. Once cooked, take a hand blender and blend until smooth. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper. As a finishing touch add a swirl of cream, or mix it through the whole soup. You can also add some croutons on top when served into a bowl, which adds a nice texture and crunch.

Lower Sugar Juicing Recipe

Further to my blog post yesterday entitled “To Juice or Not To Juice?’ as promised, I have listed below a juice recipe which is said to contain less sugars.  It is an acquired taste, but if it means that I can avoid some sugar spikes which can happen with fruit juices then so be it.  I still want to enjoy my freshly squeezed orange juice in moderation, which will be no issue to those who like me, have a decent balanced diet.  To sit drinking only juice at every meal sitting for weeks, just because daft celebs do it, is in my opinion not very bright and not something I would advocate.

green juice

It is VERY green which may just put some of you off but if you are into your juicing at the moment then this is another recipe to try out.  It still does not answer the argument about the fibre element that I wrote about, but I know many of you have bought juicers and want to use them.  Mine is now off into the back of my pantry again, as I imagine many others will do after they get bored of it.  I enjoy all the ingredients individually and so want to eat them raw and as whole as possible.  Yes I do eat raw cabbage, and have done for years as a salad.  I cut it up and mix with a little white wine vinegar and olive oil.

So I hope you enjoy this green beast recipe, but also hope vegetable and fruit phobes will start to enjoy such produce as part of a proper meal, so that they can enjoy all the benefits.

The Green Beast

  • 130g Cabbage
  • 2 Pears
  • 1 Celery Stick
  • 30g Watercress

Place all the ingredients in your juicer and whizz up.  It is best served over ice.