There is a very famous Greek tavern in Melbourne’s Cebtral Business District called ‘Stalactities’. It is a Melbourne icon and a friend to all those who are still out and about at wee hours of the morning as it is open 24-7. It was here that I first tasted a gemista and my first reaction to it was ‘too minty’ and ‘too much rice’. Having grown up in a South-Indian household eating rice 3 or 4 times a day, I generally try and avoid eating it as much as I can and so this dish was a big thumbs-down.
However, in the last couple of years, I’ve started making my version of the gemista which is not so minty and has a few more flavours than just rice. I also cut the capsicums/peppers in half which in no means is traditional but ah well. The parmesan on top too isn’t very authentic but I like it and my partner hasn’t complained so far so I’ll assume he does too. I hope you like it too.
3 medium peppers of various colours (red, yellow and orange are sweeter than green)
1 and 1/2 cups of rice
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of pinenuts
1 tablespoon of sultanas/raisins (optional if you like a little bit of sweetness)
handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons of oil
1-2 tablespoons of grated parmesan (optional)
salt to suit your taste
1. Cut the peppers in half leaving the stalk on one of the halves. Use 1 table spoons of oil to rub the inside and outside of the peppers.
2. Place the peppers hollow side down, on non-stick baking paper. Place in a 200ºC oven for 15 minutes or until the tops just start to char. During this time, make the filling.
3. For the filling, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium sized pot and sauté the onions until they go translucent.
4. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute.
5. Add the pinenuts and sultanas and sauté until the sultans start to swell.
6. Add the rice and mix it into the pot’s ingredients.
7. Add the tomatoes, mint, salt and 2 cups of water and again, mix well.
8. Place a lid on the pot and allow the rice to cook by soaking up the water.
9. Check it every 5 minutes and add more water if you see that the mixture is drying out or feel that it is getting stuck to the bottom of the pan.
10. Taste the rice to make sure it is cooked and turn the heat source off when it is.
11. In this time, the capsicums should be ready to go. Flip them so that the hollow side faces you. Don’t worry if you see a lot of juice oozing out as this is just the capsicum juice and is quite tasty so you don’t need to tip it out.
12. Fill each of the halves with the rice mixture and top with parmesan if you like.
13. Bake until the cheese has melted or until the top of the rice looks a little brown if you are leaving the cheese out.
14. These stuffed peppers are best eaten while hot but reheat well for lunch the next day.
1. If you are vegan, then just omit the parmesan as the rest of the recipe is vegan.
2. The skins of green peppers has a little bitterness to it so if you don’t like that, then stick to yellow, red and orange peppers for this dish.