Yaprakes – stuffed vine leaves
This dish, known as Dolmades in Greece and Yaprakes in Jewish communities round the Mediterranean, is blanches vineleaves stuffed with meat, rice and pine nuts, or rice and herbs. Rina makes a delicious non-meat version, part of an array of vegetable dishes on the table as a first course, at her Jerusalem home.
Rina Mevorach shows her grand daughter Enelle Mevorach how to fill and fold the vine leaves. You definitely need help from an expert at the start!
In Jerusalem where Rina and Enelle both live, vine leaves grow plentifully - including on the walls of Enelle's family home. The best time to pick them is spring. Go for the youngest brightest green leaves of a decent size, then wash them and soak them. You can freeze them at that stage, so that you always have them ready to use. Soaking them turns them from that lovely bright green to olive coloured. That's the colour they are when you buy them, dried, from Mediterranean food stores.
Rina makes these vegetarian stuffed vine leaves according to the recipe her mother handed down to her in her native Libya. It is her grand-daugher Enelle's favourite.
“No one makes this like my grandmother. No one! it’s the best!" says Enelle.
You make this dish in 3 stages.
First prepare your leaves; then make a herb paste which you will divide up – adding most of it to uncooked rice, and a smaller amount to the pot; and finally you will roll the leaves up around the rice into cigar shapes.
- 250 g/ 8 0z vine leaves (you can generally buy this dried at speciality Mediterranean or Middle Eastern stores)
- 1 ½ cups white rice
- For the herb paste:
- ½ large bunch fresh coriander, equivalent to 2 small supermarket bunches
- ½ large bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, about equivalent to 2 small supermarket bunches
- A handful or two of fresh mint – less than the coriander and parsley
- 1 large onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2-3 tablespoons oil
- ½ tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable soup powder or 4 stock cubes divided for 2 locations
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pour boiling water over vine leaves and soak for half an hour, or longer if you can. Drain, cut off the stalks and pile the leaves upside down ie with the vein/under side facing up, so that when you fold them the shiny/top side of the leaf will be on show.
- Mix the ingredients for the herb paste in a blender. It will make green, fragnant, gloopy paste. Divide this in two – 1/4 for the pot, and 3/4 for the rice.
- Put ¼ of the paste in a pot with 1 tablespoon of soup powder (or 2 chicken stock cubes), ½ cup of water and 1 tablespoon of oil. Cover with 1 vine leaf, stretched out like a rug, to prevent the bottom layer from burning.
- Put the reaming ¾ of the spice paste into a bowl with the rice, the second tablespoon of soup powder (or the last 2 stock cubes) and some salt and pepper.
- Now let the folding commence! Lay one vine leaf flat - still upside down. Place 1 teaspoon of rice mixture in the middle. Drag in the left flap of vine leaf to cover the mix, then the right side, and now roll up like a sleeping bag. Or a cigar.
- Pile into the prepared pot. When it’s half full, squeeze in the lemon juice.
- When you’ve finished filling the leaves, pour in boiling water to cover, and boil over a high heat for a few minutes. Reduce to a low flame. Cook for about one hour.
“When the water’s finished, it’s ready,” says Grandma Rina.