Chef's Recipes

Pikilia gemista

Australian Gourmet Traveller entree recipe for pikilia gemista by chef George Calombaris from Melbourne restaurant The Press Club.

By George Calombaris
  • 1 hr 30 mins preparation
  • 2 hrs 40 mins cooking plus cooling
  • Serves 4
  • Print
Pikilia gemista
Selection of stuffed vegetables


  • 4 truss vine-ripened tomatoes, separated
  • 2 heirloom zucchini, halved lengthways, ends trimmed (see note)
  • 2 Japanese eggplant, halved diagonally
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Eggplant stuffing
  • 2 red capsicum
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 50 gm brown sugar
  • 50 gm small green lentils
  • ½ golden shallot
  • ¼ each carrot and celery stalk
  • ½ garlic clove
  • 3 sprigs thyme
Vegetable nage
  • ½ each onion, carrot and celery stalk
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • ¼ bunch of thyme
  • 5 white peppercorns
  • 250 ml white wine
Tomato stuffing
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ onion, finely chopped
  • 50 gm arborio rice
  • 75 gm canned crushed tomatoes
  • 5 each dill and flat-leaf parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lemon, finely grated rind only
Zucchini stuffing
  • 50 gm canned chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, seeds removed, diced
Tomato dressing
  • 100 gm canned crushed tomatoes
  • 10 basil leaves
  • ¼ Spanish onion


  • 1
    Cut tomatoes horizontally 1cm from tops (reserve tops). Hollow out with a spoon (reserve tomato membrane), turn upside down on absorbent paper and refrigerate until required. Lightly score zucchini and eggplant, season with sea salt, refrigerate until required.
  • 2
    For eggplant stuffing, preheat oven to 200C. Roast capsicum in a roasting tray until skins blister (25-30 minutes). When cool enough to handle, peel (discard skin and seeds) and finely chop. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion and sauté until transparent (5-10 minutes). Add capsicum and brown sugar and stir until caramelised (10-15 minutes). Meanwhile, combine lentils, shallot, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme in a saucepan, cover completely with cold water and cook over medium heat until lentils are tender (35-45 minutes). Strain, discard vegetables and herbs, then combine lentils with capsicum mixture and season to taste. Scrape out insides of eggplant with a spoon (discard flesh) then fill eggplant with lentil mix and set aside. Reduce oven to 180C.
  • 3
    For vegetable nage, combine all ingredients except wine in a saucepan, add 1 litre of water and bring to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cool slightly, then add wine. Strain and set aside.
  • 4
    Meanwhile, for tomato stuffing, heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add onion and cook over medium heat until translucent (5-10 minutes). Add rice, stirring to coat, and 280ml vegetable nage, cover and cook until rice is al dente (20-25 minutes). Add crushed tomato, herbs and lemon rind and season to taste. Cool, divide among prepared tomatoes and replace tomato tops. Set aside.
  • 5
    Meanwhile, for zucchini stuffing, pulse chickpeas in a food processor until coarsely chopped and transfer to a bowl. Add onion and tomato and season to taste. Scrape out insides of prepared zucchini with a spoon and fill with chickpea mixture.
  • 6
    For tomato dressing, combine reserved tomato membrane, crushed tomatoes, basil and onion in a blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste and set aside.
  • 7
    Place all stuffed vegetables in a deep roasting pan, fill to 1cm deep with vegetable nage, drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and roast until tender (15-20 minutes). Serve immediately, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and tomato dressing spooned around.


If unavailable, you can substitute heirloom zucchini with small zucchini.
Drink Suggestion: A leafy xinomavro, such as the 2006 Kir-Yianni Akakies from Naoussa. Drink suggestion by Andrew Phillpot

  • Author: George Calombaris