The first time I tasted the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves was when my husband found it in Cold Storage, a super market chain in Singapore. With a very soft texture, sweet and sour, fresh and aromatic flavour, it tasted like something I had never experienced before. I guess you know the feeling when you give a food the first bite and you feel it’s so good on your tongue, in your mouth and you just keep on slowly chewing, trying to delay a swallow as you do not want to interrupt that heavenly feeling. And I just got so addicted to it after all.
Coming from Asian Food culture background, I had no idea about the fact that grape leaves are edible but now I am addicted to it. This probably is one of the most favourite seasonal dishes of some Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. Luckily, now a day you can easily find a package or jar of pickled grape leaves in the Middle Eastern groceries in Sydney. I found it in a Turkish grocery in Aurbun and all you need to do is to give it a good soak in water and drain well before using. There are plenty of leaves in a package and I use the damaged leaves to line the bottom of the pot where the grape leaves are cooked.
Even though many people think that this is a complicated dish to make; however, in fact it is more easy than it seems and it’s a lot of fun to make, too. All you need is a little time and patience. This vegetarian stuffed grape leaves with rice and herbs is another recipe which is well worth the efforts and it is suitable for any vegetarian, vegan and it is gluten-free. Isn’t it awesome?! Follow the technique but feel free to adjust the amount of herbs and spices to your own tastes. Do not forget to serve this with some plain Greece yogurt on the side. It tastes much nicer the next day and the best is to enjoy it as a cold dish. Hope you will enjoy it.
Serve: 04 people
Prepare time: 1 hour Cooking time: 1:30 minutes Total time: 2 hours – 30 minutes
- 24 large and unbroken pickled grape leaves, stem discarded, soak in water for 20 minutes, drained
- 11⁄2 medium onion, diced / finely chopped
- 1 cup rice, washed and drained (I use jasmine rice; however long grain rice works well)
- 1⁄2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2⁄3 cup olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup dried currant
- 1⁄6 cup pine nut
- 1⁄6 teaspoon black pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinimon
- 1⁄2 teaspoon allspice
- 1⁄2 tablespoon dried mint leaves
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
- 1⁄2 tablespoons salt
- 1⁄2 lemon, juice of 1⁄2 lemon
- Sauté the onion with 1/3 cup of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat for 4 minutes. Then add pine nuts, rice in and stir constantly for 5 minutes.
- Add all the spices (dried currants, cinnamon, dried mint, allspice, salt, black pepper and sugar) and the chopped parsley leaves, give a quick stir then add 1/4 cup of boiling water and simmer on low medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove the rice mixture from stove and let it cool.
- Wrapping: Place a leaf with the stem towards you on a flat working surface with the underside of the leaf faces up. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the bottom center of the leaf, just above the stem. Fold the bottom section up to cover the filling, fold the sides inwards and then roll the leaf up towards the top point.
- Line the bottom of a heavy saucepan with a layer of grape leaves (I used the small and broken leaves) to avoid the stuffed vine leaves will be burned or get dry during the cooking process.
- Place all the stuffed grape leaves side by side and tuck very tightly in layers in the saucepan.
- In a bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon and pour over the stuffed grape leaves, cover the stuffed leaves with water (just by about 1 cm). Place a plate upside down (so that the stuffed leaves won’t move around in boiling water) and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until all the water is absorbed for about 60 minutes or until the leaves are tender and the rice filling is cooked through. Transfer to your serving dish and let cool.
TIPS: Serve cold and serve with plain greece yougurt. The stuffed vine leaves tastes much nicer the next day