About this recipe:Grape leaves are stuffed with meat and veggies for this intensely popular traditional snack from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. This one is inspired by a Greek filling of lamb and rice.
1 packet vine leaves in brine, about 227g, drained
Rinse the vine leaves. Add them to a saucepan of boiling water and bring back to the boil. Blanch for 2–3 minutes, then drain the vine leaves and set aside.
For the filling, cook the onion and lamb in a non-stick frying pan for 5 minutes, stirring, until the lamb is browned and the onion is soft. Add the courgette and pine nuts and cook, stirring, for a further 3–4 minutes. Stir in the rice, mint and stock.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 7–8 minutes or until the stock is absorbed (the rice will not be completely cooked). Remove from the heat and season to taste, then set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Snip off any long stalks on the vine leaves, then lay them out on a board with the veins uppermost and smooth sides underneath. (You will probably have to work in batches as there are about 40 vine leaves in a packet.) Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling and roll up into a neat cigar-shaped parcel.
Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole. Add the fennel and red and green peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and a little seasoning. Add the vine leaf parcels to the casserole, pushing the slivers of garlic between them. Pour in the stock and sprinkle on the lemon juice.
Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour or until the vine leaves are tender and the filling is firm and well cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs before serving.
Copyright by The Readers Digest Association, Inc. 2003
Some more ideas
In the filling, bulghur wheat can be used instead of rice, and chopped almonds or walnuts instead of pine nuts. Add 50g (2 oz) coarsely chopped raisins with the nuts.
For a vegetarian version, omit the lamb and increase the amount of rice to 250g (8½ oz). Cook the onion in 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil until softened, then add 1 seeded and finely chopped red pepper with the courgette and pine nuts. Stir in the rice and stock and continue as in the main recipe.
Serve warmed pitta bread with the casseroled vine leaf parcels, to scoop up the delicious sauce and vegetables.
Pine nuts are a good source of vitamin E and potassium, and they also contribute useful amounts of magnesium, zinc and iron.
Stuffed vine leaves are usually simmered in water. Cooking them in a vegetable-rich sauce brings additional vitamins, beta-carotene and phytochemicals to the dish.