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Favorite childhood recipe from Greece

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This week’s recipe is my favorite childhood summer recipe.

Every summer when I was a child, my brother and I would go to our grandparents’ in Piraeus for the whole season. My grandparents did not have an oven, and every time my grandmother would make this dish, she had to make it early enough so that my granddad could take it to the bakery, and they would put it in the oven there.

Γεμιστά, Greek recipe for stuffed tomatoes and peppers. Photo by A. Köpping.
Γεμιστά, Greek recipe for stuffed tomatoes and peppers. Photo by A. Köpping.

This was very usual in the Greece of my childhood.

Despite the fact that we lived in the city and not in a village, many people did not have an oven and would just take their dishes to the bakery to cook.

This dish makes me feel nostalgic not only for my childhood summers, but also for the 90’s in Greece. It was such a time of high hopes and expectations about a brighter future that is now lost.

Okay, so the ingredients here are enough for four tomatoes and two peppers, but feel free to double or triple quantities. My grandmother would make at least 20 pieces because of the oven situation I described earlier, and also because this dish is often made for big Sunday family lunches.

You will need:

Olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
300 g of ground minced beef
1 grated small zucchini
A handful of chopped flat parsley
125 g of rice
Salt and pepper
4 big tomatoes
2 peppers
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
Greek yogurt

How to prepare:

Pre-heat your oven to 180°. The first thing to do is to take your tomatoes and peppers and cut the top, but not entirely, and then remove the inside. What I like to do, is to first go with a knife and then use a spoon to scoop the seeds out. Put the tomatoes into a baking dish and reserve the inside of the tomatoes for later.

So you need to chop the onion and garlic and put the pieces into a pan with three to four tablespoons of olive oil, until it starts to smell nice, and then add the meat. You need to sauté the meat, then add your zucchini, the reserved tomato seeds and juices and the parsley. Let it cook and add a bit of water. Then add the rice and some water and let it cook for 5 to 8 minutes. The rice still needs to be hard, as it will cook in the oven. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Take your empty tomatoes and peppers and, with a spoon, fill them with the rice and meat mixture. Don’t overfill them; the rice will cook and therefore grow while in the oven. Add water, three tablespoons of olive oil and one teaspoon of tomato paste to the dish. Again, salt and pepper to your taste.

Put into the oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Make sure you have a look once in a while. Cooking is an art, not a precise science. Therefore, cooking time is approximate.

Once it is ready, take out of the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes before you eat. In most of Greek food, cooling is an important process because it allows for the tastes to be revealed. Many of my favorite Greek foods actually taste better on the second day.

Serve with Greek yogurt. Don’t insult this dish by using Greek style yogurt; it is really not the same thing. Actual Greek yogurt is drained of its liquids, and that is what gives it the amazing creaminess. You will also do some good to the Greek economy at the same time. Greek brands that I have found in Germany are Fage, Kri Kri, and Mevgal.

“Good food makes good people”. In her column, Alexandra will present the culinary diversity that exists in Leipzig by discovering new and exciting places to eat. She will also present the family recipes from people who live in Leipzig, as a way to show the cultural diversity that exists in this city.

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