After many years and hundreds of long phone calls with mom, I finally got it right! Folks this one takes some effort but so worth it………..
Jordanian stuffed grape leaves with lamb ribs. Can easily be made veggie-style. I’ll make notes below for substitutions.
Don’t confuse this with the Greece or Turkey grape leaves that are served cold. These are hot baby! And served with yogurt and salad.
Prep time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour (minimum)
Serves: 6 (could be more, could be less)
Ingredients (grape leaves):
- 1lb finely hand-chopped lamb meat (shoulder is best). For veggie, substitute with raisins and pinenuts (and fried bits of tofu if you’re feeling crazy).
- Lamb ribs and/or shoulder with bones. For veggie, substitute with potatoes, cauliflower, and eggplant.
- 1 cup rice (long grain)
- Grape leaves (pickled)
- Two ripe tomatos
- All spice
- Salt and pepper
Ingredients (yogurt and salad):
- Greek-style yogurt (normal is ok, but no low-fat as it’s too runny)
- Cucumbers (small Jordanian ones if you can find them)
- Tomatoes (summer is coming! pick em fresh if you can)
- Fresh mint (dry mint will do)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Prep – Step 01 (earlier in the day):
I recommend doing this part earlier in the day or the day before. It is a bit tiring so if you do it before your meal, you’ll be lame company!
1. Soak the rice for 15 minutes in warmish-hot water from the tap (do not boil).
2. At the same time, soak your grape leaves in cool water for 15 minutes (to get the brine out). I’m assuming here you are using jarred/packaged grape leaves bought at your local arabic/turkish/greek supermarket. You can do as my mom does and brine them yourself, but that takes time and it’s hard to find so many good condition grape leaves!
3. Hand chop the lamb into very very tiny pieces (if you are feeling lazy you can have your butcher grind it for you).
4. Mix the rice and lamb with all spice, salt and pepper. You can use cinnamon and nutmeg too if you like. Be liberal with the all spice cause it’s gonna season everything ….
5. Drain the grape leaves and lay them out in stacks. Clear the table, making sure you got elbow room and put on some music cause this is gonna take some time. I usually work on a cutting board or a big metal tray (cause its gonna get wet and messy!).
6. Have you rolled a burrito before? EZ-PZ. Lay out one grape leaf (cut off the stem) and add a bit of stuffing (rice and meat). Not too much since the rice will expand when you cook it. Fold over the leaf covering the rice and then fold over the sides, pull it kinda tight and then roll. After your first 10 you’ll get the hang of it. Repeat 60-100 times :D
7. Refrigerate (covered) until you are ready to cook.
Prep – Step 02 (pre-dinner):
About 2 hours before you’d like to serve.
1. In a big pot (the thicker the better) add a bit of olive oil (not virgin) and sautee the meat over a high heat. You don’t want to cook it, just sear it to keep in the juices (yum!). If you are going veggie, do the same.
2. Take it off the heat and stack the grape leaves on top of the meat (if veggie, make sure your potatoes are the bottom, this sucker is gonna cook for a while).
3. Once you have it all packed in nice and tight, add 1-2 cups of water, just enough to where you can barely see the water. Don’t put too much, you can add more later.
4. Slice up 1-2 tomatoes and layer it on top and salt (to draw the water up).
5. Cover and cook for 1 hour minimum. Check regularly to make sure it is not getting dried out (if so, add more water).
6. After about 35 minutes, take one grape leave out to test. Once it is done (rice is fluffy, grape leave snaps when you bite it), take it off the heat … it’ll stay warm for a while.
Prep – Step 03 (side dishes):
1. Put the yogurt in a few small serving bowls so everyone can have access.
2. Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers (and onions if you like) and mix into a bowl with minced mint (use scissors to mince the mint). Mix should be equal parts tomatoes and cucumbers.
3. In another bowl, mix olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper to make dressing. Toss with salad about 30 minutes before you serve.
Get yourself a big serving tray, your gonna need it!
Remove the cover to the pot of grape leaves and put the serving tray on it upside-down. Then, with a helper, flip the pot onto the serving tray and put it down on a firm surface.
Hand in mitt, pound gently on the pot to get the yummy food that might be stuck to the bottom to loosen. Slowly pull up the pot until all the hot food tumbles onto the tray. Be careful, it is HOT! Scrap the bottom to get any other goodies out.
Serve it fast! If you want to dish it out for folks, give 6-10 grape leaves per person and a couple pieces of meat and/or veggies. Use the yogurt for dipping the grape leaves and eat the salad with the meal.
If you have read this far, then I think you are crazy enough to try it! Good luck! And invite your Arabic friends, they like me, are probably desperate for their mothers food ;)
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