Gemista is a traditional way of cooking and enjoying vegetables in Greece. The word gemista, literally means filled or stuffed. It is a summer food, almost exclusively made during the summer months, as it uses predominantly tomatoes. Tomatoes are at their best in the summer as you may know.
When it comes to most traditional Greek foods, the perception (and often reality) is that they are labour intense. This one, gemista, usually is, as it requires carefully removing the flesh from tomatoes, preparing the stuffing with rice or mince meat, stuffing them and then baking them in the oven. However, in our version here, we are using bulgur wheat instead of rice. And bulgur wheat cooks much faster than rice. And instead of tomatoes, we are using colourful peppers. Removing the flesh is not necessary here, you just have to remove the seeds. So the actual time you’ll spend in the kitchen is really not that much.
The recipe below creates a very pleasant dish. It feels like that friend you want to spend time with on a cool summer evening. It is not heavy on oil, as most gemista usually are and the bulgur wheat gives it an interesting nuttiness. Add to that the sweet smoked paprika and fragrant herbs and you can imagine what we are talking about. So read on and come visit us at Borough Market to source everything you need!
For 6 long stuffed peppers
6 long peppers (red, yellow, green, you choose)
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
200g bulgur wheat
2 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
2 generous handfuls of pine nuts
1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 small bunch of mint, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
Preheat your oven at 200C.
Cut the top part of each pepper. Remove the seeds using your fingers, a small knife or by tapping the pepper on your chopping board.
In a pot warm up the 3 tbsp of oil and gently fry the onion until translucent. Add the paprika and stir until your onions and oil turn red. Add the bulgur wheat and pine nuts. Stir so that everything is well mixed. Add your pine nuts. Add 1 cup of water and stir for a couple of minutes until the bulgur wheat absorbs it all. You are going for one step before al dente here, so that the rest cooks in the oven.
Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more seasonings or herbs. You need the flavour of your stuffing to be quite intense, as once it is fully cooked, the flavours calm down.
(At this point you could just stop and eat the stuffing, ignoring the rest of the recipe, but trust us, it gets better)
Using a spoon, stuff each pepper with bulgur wheat. Place them on a baking tray with the ¼ cup of olive oil and ½ cup of water. Bake until the peppers are soft and the filling is cooked through, around 30-40min.
Serve with feta cheese or Greek yogurt and warm crusty bread. Welcome to the Greek summer!