Yemista – Stuffed Tomatoes

Yemista Tu yiannis – Yiannis’s Stuffed Tomatoes

Yemista - stuffed tomatoes
Yemista – stuffed tomatoes

The secret is the olive oil, lots of it!
Lathero means cooked in olive oil.
To Lather – to cover something completely
(When I was typing lathero, the predictive text came up with lathering, which seems fitting and probably where our word comes from!)

One of the most wonderfully delicious and simple recipes, and typical in most of the tavernas I have visited and each one has a different recipe. This particular version uses uncooked stuffing, but there are many versions which will pre-cook the rice, while others add grated carrot, various different herbs or spices, or fresh cheese (called mezithra – similar to ricotta). Feel free to experimant to your tastes!

This recipe comes from a magical taverna in Fratsia on the Island of Kythira – I stopped there in the afternoon, after a rainy day. Yiannis (the chef) and his brother had just opened Taverna Familia 3 days before and I ended up sitting for 2 hours with them, listening to an amazing album by Gaudi & Muskrat Fateh Ali Khan (dub Quawwali), chatting about life and food. Yiannis smiles and becomes enthused when he talks about food (much like I do), and I left with this recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients
(To make 10 tomatoes)
10 large tomatoes
A handful of fresh parsley
A handful of fresh fennel (or dill if you can’t find it)
1/2 handful of mint
2 red onions
1 clove garlic
10tbs uncooked long grain rice (1 tbs per vegetable)
200ml extra virgin olive oil
100ml water
A handful of Sultanas
4 potatoes (chopped into long quarters)
Tomato purée (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 180 °

  1. Cut the top from each tomato and reserve the “hats”. Scoop out the inside of each tomato into a bowl. Sprinkle sugar, salt and pepper inside each tomato and wipe around with your finger (this is very important!).
  2. Blend the flesh from the inside of the tomato and divide in two. Add the olive oil to one half. Set aside.
  3. Chop and mix all the other ingredients in a bowl. Add the olive oil tomato puree mixture. Mix well.
  4. Fill each tomato with the rice mixture (a little more than 3/4 full – to 1 finger from the top, to give space for the rice to expand). Place a “hat” on top of each one.
  5. Place the filled tomatoes in an oven dish with the potatoes around them.
  6. Mix the water with the other half of the flesh from the inside of the tomato, add a good splash of olive oil and and a squeeze of tomato purée (if you want). Mix and pour around the tomatoes and over the
  7. Cook for approx 1 hour, spooning sauce over the top every 20 minutes or so. They are ready when they begin to colour on top.

Serve hot, with a few spoonfuls of sauce and some Greek yoghurt

You can also use other vegetables: peppers/ aubergines or even jacket potatoes with this filling.

To make a meat version, you can fry some lamb or beef mince in olive oil until it’s browned, and then add it to the rice mixture.


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