Festive gemista

Preparation time
over 2 hours

Cooking time
1 to 2 hours


By Georgina Hayden
From Saturday Kitchen


For the gemista

  • 4 onions, topped and tailed
  • 8 tomatoes, tops removed and reserved
  • 2 round courgettes, tops removed and reserved
  • 75ml/2½fl oz olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 250g/9oz medium grain rice
  • 75g/2½oz pine nuts, toasted
  • 50g/1¾oz golden raisins or sultanas
  • 10g/⅓oz flatleaf parsley
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 650ml/23fl oz hot vegetable stock
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

  • 400g/14oz Greek yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • large pinch dried red chilli flakes


  1. Start by preparing the onions as they will need time to cool. Cut the onions halfway into the centre vertically, so that once they are boiled you can peel off the layers. Place the onions in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook over a medium heat for around 40 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the water and leave to cool completely. It’s worth doing this the night before.

  2. When you are ready to cook the gemista, take the tomatoes and courgettes and scoop out the middles with a spoon to leave an empty cavity. Be careful not to scoop out too much of the tomatoes or they will fall apart. Put the tomato filling in a bowl to one side, and discard the courgette seeds. Arrange the prepared vegetables in a deep roasting tray, leaving space for the onions too.

  3. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

  4. Lay out the onion layers (you probably only need the 5 biggest layers). Finely chop the remaining middle parts of the onions, then fry in a wide saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 10 minutes over a medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato purée, ½ teaspoon sea salt and some black pepper. After a minute, roughly chop and add the scooped out tomato filling and keep cooking until most of the juices have reduced but you're left with a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the rice, toasted pine nuts, raisins, dried mint and cinnamon, season again, then add the chopped parsley. Leave to cool.

  5. When the filling is ready, spoon into the prepared, hollowed-out vegetables, filling them all by three-quarters so there's room for the rice to expand. Lay the large cooked onion petals out in front of you and stuff those also, leaving a bit of room for growth. Shape them into an ‘eye’ shape and nestle them into the tray, seam-side down.

  6. Add the lemon juice to the hot stock and pour over the stuffed vegetables directly into the tray, so that it comes just over half way up the side of the veg. If there is not enough liquid, top it up with hot water. Replace the tops of the scooped out veg, drizzle everything with the remaining olive oil and cover the tray with kitchen foil. Bake for 1 hour, then remove the foil, turn up the heat to 240C/220C Fan/Gas 9 and cook for a further 20 minutes until slightly caramelised.

  7. You can serve straight away, or leave to rest for a while so the flavours develop. Mix the yoghurt, dill and chilli flakes together and serve alongside the gemista.

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