Stuffed grape leaves (Lebanese style)

No amount of practice will ever see me attain the mathematical precision achieved by one of the best known Lebanese restaurants in my hometown Daou, of these little meat cigars known as “Yebra”. It does not matter anyways, just do your best to wrap them up tightly and add a uniform amount of filling to each leaf. When you are working with grape leaves there is quite a bit of fluctuation you need to account for, and that is part of the charm. Put on some relaxing music and take the time to make this a pleasant experience because it has the potential to get tedious if you are not in the correct mindset. I much prefer these to cabbage rolls as the tangy taste of grape leaves brings a unique flavour. I also feel that they are superior to stuffed peppers (capsicum) because of this flavour profile.

Ingredients

500 g ground lamb

3/4 cup white rice (I used basmati)

2 teaspoons salt

Lamb rump cuts – a few pieces to line your casserole dish

1/2 can chopped tomatoes

18-24 vine leaves

Juice from 1 lemon

3 cups chicken stock

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

Combine lamb, rice, spices, 1 tsp of the salt and parsley – mix well with your hands to incorporate the flavours.

Line a casserole dish with lamb pieces (or if not using, add some vine leaves in a few layers). Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp salt.

Spoon a small amount of lamb mixture (~ 1 tsp) to each leaf in a short cigar shape. Starting at the base of the leaf (near the stem) begin to roll upwards, folding the sides of the leaf towards the centre and under the fold. Place folded leaves on top of the lamb pieces and continue to wrap and layer the rolls in the dish.

At the end of the rolling, scatter chopped tomatoes and garlic cloves over the top. Sprinkle lemon juice. Pour chicken stock over top of rolls until almost completely covered. Bake at 350F for 30 mins.

Serve with strained yogurt and pita bread.

Eat and enjoy.

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