Vegetarian Vine Leaves

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It is very likely that you have had stuffed vine leaves before, either in a Greek or Lebanese restaurant. It’s likely that they were cold, lemony, loosely rolled and vegetarian. As nice as they are, they are nothing like Palestinian Stuffed vine leaves, which are traditionally stuffed with lamb, rice and spices, tightly rolled and served piping hot as a main meal with yoghurt. Mine are a wonderfully healthy, nutritious and delicious variation of the Palestinian variety.

This was one of my very favourite dishes when I was growing up, and to his day I am still delighted when my Mama lovingly prepares them for me, especially when I have had a hard day or feel unwell. My Mama recently underwent a major operation. A few days before she was discharged from hospital, I asked her what she wanted when she came home and she said that she wanted stuffed vine leaves. I guess we both rely on the same foods to comfort us, and I was delighted to take the time to make them for her as thanks for the countless times she has made them for me when I was growing up.

These stuffed vine leaves are a powerhouse of health and nutrition, including almonds, olives, parsley, mint and spices.

You may find these a bit fiddly to roll initially, but you’ll get better and faster. I roll them on a wooden chopping board, my Mama rolls them in one hand; even I have not achieved her expert level of rolling yet!

If you have access to fresh vine leaves, that is ideal (I pick mine form my Mama’s garden when the season is right). If you buy them in a vacuum pack or jar, you can miss out the first step in the ‘method’ section.

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ingredients

50-60 vine leaves
1 ½ cup brown nice
1 medium white onion
½ cup almonds, peeled, soaked & chopped
½ cup mild black olives
1 handful of parsley
½ handful of mint
6 medium Vine ripened tomatoes, small dice
1 tsp Ground mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp Ground cardamom
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches of pink Himalayan salt, crushed
1 twist of black pepper, freshly milled
2 litres vegetable stock

method

1. make sure the stalk of the vine leaves are as short as possible, and place in a large bowl filled with boiling lightly salted water. Remove the leaves from the water after 20 minutes, and pat dry
2. while the leaves are in the water, add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a frying pan with the onions and almonds, and stir over a medium/high heat until translucent and browned
3. In a bowl thoroughly mix the rice, tomatoes, olives, parsley, mint, mixed spice, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, pepper, onions and almonds, 5 tbsp olive oil
4. sit at a table with the bowl of rice mix, the pile of vine leaves and a wooden shopping board in front of you and begin to roll
5. place the vine leaf in front of you, with the veins facing upwards. Using your fingers, take a teaspoon amount and place in an oblong at the base of the leaf. Fold up the bottom points, roll the whole leaf, then fold in the side points and continue to roll tightly until the entire leaf in rolled up. Squeeze each rolled leaf in the palm of your hands to move any excess liquid
6. tightly pack the stuffed vine leaves into in to a large pot until the bottom is completely covered, then start another layer. Continue this until all the leaves are rolled and in the pot.
7. secure the leaves with a heavy upturned side plate or a smaller pot lid. (it’s vital you do this do avoid all the leaves unravelling during the cooking process)
8. cover the vine leaves with the vegetable stock, and place over a medium/ high heat. Once it starts boiling reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, cooking for 1 hr 45 minutes
9. towards the end of the specified time, continue to check the vine leaves to ensure the pan does not dry out completely, though most/all the water should be absorbed during the cooking
10. serve as many as you want with a large spoonful of organic natural yoghurt.

2 thoughts on “Vegetarian Vine Leaves

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