"This recipe from Melbourne food queen Kathy Tsaples dials up the flavour - she likes to roast eggplant, zucchini and capsicum with fresh oregano and garlic and add them to the rice stuffing with generous amounts of fresh herbs…then stuff capsicum, eggplant, potatoes and onions with the delicious mixture. When packed into a baking tray and drizzled with olive oil, the stuffed vegetables shine like jewels. Kathy makes trays of these every week at her store Sweet Greek in the Prahran markets. Not surprisingly, they always sell out."Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
The tradition of stuffing vegetables goes back centuries and in Greece yemista is a beautiful celebration of just how colourful and sweet vegetables are.
- 3 large tomatoes
- 3 red capsicum
- 2 green capsicum
- 3 small Lebanese zucchini
- 4 large potatoes (2 for stuffing, 2 peeled and cut into wedges)
- 2 onions, peeled and gently boiled until soft
- 160 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 2 large onions, diced
- 11 garlic cloves (5 crushed and 6 left unpeeled)
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp dried mint
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 500 g (2½ cups) short grain rice
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 green zucchini
- 1 red capsicum
- 6 sprigs fresh oregano
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
- ½ cup dill, chopped
- ½ cup mint, chopped
- handful basil leaves, torn
- 1½ tsp dried oregano
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Slice three quarters of the way through the tops of the tomatoes and capsicums, leaving the lids in-tact. Using a small spoon, scoop out and reserve the pulp from the tomatoes and the flesh from the zucchini and 2 of the potatoes. Remove the seeds from the capsicums without piercing the skin. Sprinkle the interior of the vegetable ‘shells’ with a little salt and set aside.
Blanch the capsicums in boiling water for about 3 minutes and drain. Finely chop all the flesh that has been scooped out from the tomatoes, zucchini and potato.
For the stuffing, heat 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and crushed garlic and sauté for a few minutes before adding bay leaves and the chopped flesh from the vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, dried mint and spices, then stir in the rice. Saute for a few minutes before seasoning with salt and adding the stock. Simmer for 15–20 minutes or until the stock is absorbed. (You only want to partially cook the rice at this stage). Remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
While the rice is cooking, chop the eggplant, green zucchini, capsicum into small cubes. Place in a roasting dish with the unpeeled garlic cloves, thyme and oregano sprigs. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until golden brown. Remove from the oven, then reduce the temperature to 180°C.
Peel the garlic cloves and discard the skin. Finely chop the garlic flesh. When the rice has been removed from the heat, stir through the roast vegetables and garlic with the parsley, dill, mint and basil. Spoon the mixture into the vegetable shells and replace the tops on the vegetables. Cut the soft boiled onions half way through and carefully separate into layers. Stuff each onion layer with rice mixture and wrap to enclose. Place the stuffed vegetables in a large oiled baking dish so they fit snugly.
Cut the remaining potatoes into wedges and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon dried oregano and a good pinch of salt. Arrange the potato wedges and onion hearts (that can’t be stuffed) in between the stuffed vegetables. Combine water, the crushed tomatoes with 500 ml (2 cups) water, 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil and the remaining teaspoon of dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the tomato mixture over the vegetables, making sure to coat each one evenly. Bake for 1 hour or until golden and tender. Check the yemista half way through cooking- if the tops are browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminium foil. Serve hot or at room temperature, drizzled with extra olive oil.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Belinda So.