Its October. That means just one thing in Palestine: the olive harvest! This is a critical time of year for the Palestinian economy, where the harvesting of olives and pruning of trees will provide, oil, olives, pulp and wood for many businesses- food producers, soap makers and wood carvers. It’s also when the Palestinian solidarity movement really comes alive with hundreds of people from across the world going to Palestine support rural communities and farmers harvest their olives and plant new trees. The people support with their labour and their protective presence to protect Palestinians form settlers and the Israeli army. It’s also the last harvest of grapes and grape-leaves which are absolutely critical in any Palestinian Kitchen.
Even here in the UK, it marks the time that my Mama and I harvest our own grapes and grape leaves- the latter being by far the most important of the two. At my Mama’s house she has the most extraordinary vines in front and at the back of her house and for years and years now we pick the leaves to stuff and roll and freeze bundles and bundles so that we can eat vines leaves throughout the winter months too. When I moved into my house with my husband, Mama gave me a shoot from her vine and so I now have the same lovely grapes growing in my garden.
We love to make Warak Dawali. It can be time consuming, but we sit and chat as we go or sometimes Mama sets herself up in the snug and watches TV as she rolls.
This recipe is for meaty Warak, if you want to try the vegetarian ones, see the recipe here.
vine leaves (if you are using pre-prepared vine leaves from a packet or jar, then skip the first step)
1.5 cups basmati rice
500g minced meat
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon allspice
I teaspoon paprika
4 on-vine-tomatoes, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
- Pile the leaves neatly one on top of another and put them in a large bowl or pan and cover with boiling water then let cool down until you can handle them. Cut the stems of as much as possible and set aside any leaves that have too many holes or are very torn.
- In the meantime, mix all the sprices, meat and rice together in a large bowl or tray until thoroughly mixed.
- Prepare the cooking pot, but laying the torn leaves at the bottom of the pan to cover it completely.
- Arrange your work area so that you have a tea-towel in front of you with a wooden board on top of it to work on. Then have the rice mixture and prepared vine leaves so you can reach them and the cooking pan nearby. Set up at the kitchen table or coffee table when you can sit while you work.
- One vine leaf at a time, spread the leaf out on the wooden board and with your hand or a small spoon add some of the rice mixture in an oblong shape. How much you add will depend on how big your leaves are.
- Then fold up the bottom shoulders on either side, fold in the ends, then roll up until the tip disappears and squeeze out any excess liquid.
- As you roll each leaf, tessellate them into the pan one layer at a time.
- If you finish the vines leaves and still have rice mix left over you can core a tomato or an aubergine or courgette and fill with the mixture.
- Once done, add the chopped tomatoes on top of all the rolled vine leaves and some olive oil. Put a small side plate on top of the rolled leaves to weight them down and then add enough cold water to cover the rolled leaves.
- Put over a high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce to a simmer and boil for about an hour ensuring that there is still water in the pan. If the water goes before an hour of boiling keep adding small amounts until you get to an hour and then boil off all water completely.
- Serve hot with yoghurt.