Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Live cook show: Yemista (Μαγειρεύω τώρα! Γεμιστά)

Join me tonight (8pm Greek time) as I make Easy Peasy Yemistes Piperies (Stuffed Peppers): you will need some green bell peppers, some rice, some herbs (a herb garden, even one of those balcony- or window-sill types will do), some canned tomatoes (I'm using my own freshly frozen tomato), and some rice, along with all the other kitchen staples.
See you tonight at 8pm (Greek time)!

6.00pm: Now you know why I chose peppers ...
The summer garden is drawing to a close, but the peppers are still thriving. They are looking slightly deformed and 'not very pretty' - but they are still peppers and they still need to be used.

6.15pm: Here's a look at the ingredients:

Once you've got them laid out in front of you, these peppers will be delicious and easy to make (I think you'll be eating in an hour from the moment you start cooking them).

6.23pm: I know the kids won't be hot on the pepper business (they prefer to see stuffed tomatos, even though they only eat the stuffing and discard the tomatoes), but hey, waste not, want not, right?

6.26pm: If you're using canned tomatoes, you just need to open a can. But if you're using freshly frozen tomato (like me), then you'll have to defrost it (never a dull moment, is there?)

7.16pm: We had lentil soup (fa-kes) for lunch today. There's another serving of that for each one of us in the fridge, but can you imagine the scene at the table the next day? "Lentil soup again, Mum?!?" It's much easier to serve these kinds of leftovers the day after - with a bit of luck, they may have forgotten when they last ate them...

7.24pm: Wouldn't it be great if they could all be satisfied with an excitingly different salad like this one? But one of them doesn't do greens, while another doesn't do live spinach (it's got to be cooked). So I'd just be preparing food for half of us...

7.30pm: Don't they just love the same old regular meals served up? 'Comfort food' isn't the right phrase: it's 'comfortable food'...

7.35pm: It's not just me that's stuck in a rut: UK mums rely on a range of nine meals to keep everyone happy on a daily basis - it's not much different to myself. Where we differ is that they spend half the time I intend to spend tonight to cook the meal, and they usually don't cook from the previous day to feed the family the next day...

7.42pm: Yes vilges suola, fa-kes won't look and taste like Greek fa-kes if they aren't cooked like Greek fakes, and they need at least one and a half hours (see why cooking is a pain in the butt sometimes?)
8.00pm: OK, it's show time. First, wash your peppers, and slice off the top part to make a 'cap'. Remove and discard the seeds from the peppers with your fingers, and there you have the cavities ready to be filled. Place them tightly upright in a wide shallow pot (cooking them on an element, while not traditional, is much faster and more economical). That only took a minute or two, right? I managed to fit 15 small peppers in the pot.

8.05pm: Now pour the can of tomatoes into a bowl, and add salt, pepper and oregano (and a hint of cumin, which I use).

8.07pm: Chop up the herbs as finely as you can. I used the classic Greek parsley, fresh mint and dill (well, fennel, actually, we had it in the garden). Then whizz (very finely again) an onion in the multi moulineux and add that to the tomatoes. See what I mean by 'Easy Peasy' food?

8.10pm: Now add a wine glass of olive oil. Don't skimp here. unless you like boiled rice instead of savoury rice.

8.12pm: Well, cupcakes, now you know the secret of a quick meal - my mum actually made them like this many times (she was a working mum in NZ).

8.16pm: Now add one large tablespoon of rice for every pepper you have in the pot. Don't worry about the liquids - you can fix those later. I have 15 small peppers, so I'm using one medium-sized tablespoon of rice per pepper.

8.21pm: If the mixture looks too dry to you, add some water; mine looks a little dry, too.

8.24pm: Now use a tablespoon to fill the pepper shells. Really easy, isn't it?

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8.28pm: Place the caps on the peppers, pour some water and oil (in the mixtures that you prefer) so that there is liquid in the pot to just below 2cm of the tops of the peppers. Then place a couple of large cabbage leaves on top of the peppers, then place a plate large enough to fit on top of the pot. (I didn't need to use a plate, but this will help you keep the peppers from spilling as they cook - the cabbage leaves were enough for me.) Place the lid on the pot, and turn on the element. Cook on a high heat till the pot starts boiling, then turn the heat down completely, and let the peppers cook till the rice is done. You need about 25 minutes.

8.40pm: The dishes were a breeze on this one, just rinse and dry (except for the one that contained the oily rice stuffing).

While we're waiting for the rice to cook, here's my original recipe for yemista on the stovetop. Now get the kids to have their baths, warm up their evening milk and get them ready for bed. If you don't have kids, well, you can enjoy a glass of wine now or have a quick shower...

8.45pm: See you soon, cupcakes!

9.15pm: My yemista are nearly done: they needed more liquid (something you always need to watch for). I'm letting them cook a little longer. It's a good idea to sway the pot to and fro so that the liquid tips into the peppers. Remember, this is tomorrow's lunch, so, no rush...

9.30pm: DONE! Good night, and enjoy the rest of the evening!

UPDATE: Just came home from work - didn't they do well?
Now all I need to do is the dishes...

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