Yemista - Cypriot stuffed vegetables

These Cypriot lamb or beef stuffed vegetables are a Christmas tradition in Cyprus. Serve with a Greek salad for a delicious no-fuss meal
Yemista - Cypriot stuffed vegetables by Stefan Economides
ITP Images
Yemista - Cypriot stuffed vegetables by Stefan Economides
December 18, 2018
Level Easy
Preparation Time 30 minutes
Cooking Time 45 minutes
Serves 6

Stef is an avid traveller, adventure junkie and sporting enthusiast. When he isn’t competing in triathlons around the world, or leading team building experiences, you’ll find him cooking for his friends, with his wife Sarah. Serve his yemista with a Greek salad for a no-fuss festive meal.

Who taught you to make this dish?
My dad was from Cyprus and my English mother readily adopted Cypriot ways, in particular the cooking. She’s a fantastic cook. And I spent a lot of time in the kitchen from a very young age (especially during the summer holidays). I watched and asked questions.

What are your tips?
The flavours in this dish come from the ingredients. Lamb can be quite fatty so I think lemon juice breaks down that heaviness and lends a beautiful flavour to the dish overall.

Have you been to Cyprus?
When I was younger, about 7 or 8 years old. It was completely unspoilt back then. The beaches were beautiful and untouched

PHOTO BY Efraim Evidor
RECIPE BY Stefan Economides
PROP STYLING BY Lydia Wessels

INGREDIENTS

For the vegetables

6 medium peppers of any colour
6 medium tomatoes
2 large courgettes
2 medium aubergines

For the sauce

Pulp from the tomatoes
Scooped out courgette flesh, finely chopped
Cinnamon sticks
75g tomato purée
50g butter
Small handful of parsley, finely chopped (optional
spinneysFOOD Sea Salt and spinneysFOOD
Black Pepper Powder

For the stuffing

2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
spinneysFOOD Sea Salt and spinneysFOOD
Black Pepper Powder
1kg lamb or beef, minced
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
150g short grained rice (bomba or Arborio)
100g tomato purée

METHOD

  • 1

    Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.

  • 2

    To prepare the vegetables, cut the tops off the peppers about 1cm from the top to make the lid. Remove the membrane and seeds. Also cut the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the flesh to leave a hollow for the stuffing. Put the tomato flesh in a pan with the cinnamon, purée, butter and seasoning. Cut the courgettes in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Chop the flesh and add to the saucepan. Do the same for the aubergine, or cut them in half width-wise and scoop out the flesh if you prefer. Arrange the vegetables in a large baking tray with the lid on.

  • 3

    Prepare the sauce by gently heating the mixed ingredients, adding extra water if necessary until all the pulp is cooked and check the seasoning.

  • 4

    To make the stuffing, fry the onions in the oil until soft and transparent. Add the seasoning and the lamb and cook on a medium heat, until the meat is coloured. Add the parsley, rice and purée and mix. Cover and put on a low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is nearly cooked. If it needs more liquid to allow the rice to cook, add a small amount of water.

  • 5

    To assemble, fill the vegetables with the stuffing and pour the sauce over them before putting the lid back on. Sprinkle with some salt flakes and cover tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and then an extra 10-15 minutes with the foil off, but don’t let them go dry.

NOTES


ALSO TRY

With game being a popular dish at Christmas in the UK, Maryanne shares her family recipe from her childhood back in Scotland
Dubai-based Alison enjoys cooking during the week, preferring to stay out of her gorgeous kitchen on weekends, when her husband, who is a former chef, takes over. Here she shares one her favourite festive starters
Monday, who used to be a teacher in the Philippines shares her traditional family recipe for Patotin - a sumptuous duck stew
South African born Gavin first cooked this traditional dish when he was on a camping trip as a teenager. The former chef now hosts regular gatherings at his house in Dubai, where potjiekos (pronounced 'poy-key-kos'), is the star. It simply isn't Christmas in the Naude household without this delicious stew