Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Stuffed Vine Leaves

Stuffed vine leaves are one of my favourite Greek dishes, whenever I go out they are always ordered, so I have tasted a fair few. When Spring arrived and the vines started to grow leaves I thoutgh ‘Mmmmm, how hard can it be?!’
The truth is that it's not hard, just a touch fiddly, I like them so much that the fiddling doesn’t put me off and perhaps the genius part of the whole thing is that, much like a stir fry, anything goes! Any veg that you have lying around the fridge is fair game. You can use fresh herbs or dried, the result is much the same though I think the fresher the better.
This is a step by step guide to making stuffed vine leaves.
First off your going to need the following ingredients:
30 – 40            Vine leaves – I use fresh leaves but you can use jarred or frozen leaves.
1                      Red pepper
1                      Large carrot
1                      Fist full of fresh coriander
1                      Fist full of fresh basil
1                      Table spoon dried oregano
1                      Large red onion
2                      Cloves of garlic
8 – 10              Baby tomatoes
1 500g            Tin of tomatoes
2                      Large tomatoes
1                      Stock cube  - I use chicken
300g                Short grain rice
Salt and pepper to taste

If using fresh vine leaves collect 30 to 40, they should have a diameter of between 12 and 18cm. Try to take younger leafs and please try not to take them all from the same plant.
Once you have your leaves you need to wash them and cut the stalks completely off. Now that they are clean pile them into stacks of ten or so and role them into a cylinder resembling a cigar.
Using tongs submerge the leafs in a pot of boiling water for 3 – 5 seconds and then place them on a plate to cool.  Keep the water and add the stock cube to the water, turn the water down to a very low heat.

Peel the onion and the garlic and throw them into the food processor. You want to blend them into finely diced pieces, alternatively if you don’t have a food processor you can grate them.
The carrot and the pepper should be cut into small pieces and added to the onion and garlic.
Put a large wok or deep frying pan onto a medium high heat and add up to 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot (but not smoking) add the onion, garlic, carrot and red pepper, cook these until they soften. When they’re soft add the rice and turn the heat down you will need a medium heat from now on.
You will need to ladle in the stock, it’s much like cooking a risotto, after you have added 3 – 4 ladles of stock add the coriander and basil and then the tinned chopped tomatoes.  The rice should be half cooked. It will be cooked the whole way through later on. Once you're at this stage take the pan off the heat and let it cool.

Unroll the vine leaves so that they are flat. Find the larger leaves and put these to one side, if there are any torn ones keep these aside too. Take a large pan or casserole dish and pour in a generous amount of olive oil (several glugs), now place as many of the torn leaves as you need to cover the base of the pan, this will stop your stuffed vine leafs from burning. Add a little more olive oil to the topside of the leaves.
On a dinner plate place one leaf upside down so that the underside of the leaf is now on top. Using a desert spoon, put just under spoon's worth of stuffing on the leaf. Next up you need to fold it. Try to get it as tight as possible, fold the left and right sides over one another and then roll the leaf, it should look like a pillow when you're done. Take the now stuffed leaf and put it into the pan which has the other leaves lining the bottom, you should put them on the edge of the pan creating a ring and work your way in, If you have a few too many just pile them up and make a second layer. 

Take the tomatoes and put them in the food processor, give them a really good nuke so that you are left with tomato pulp more than anything else and pour this over the stuffed vine leaves, you want to add some water so that the bottom leaves are just about covered and then a sprinkling of olive oil for good measure.

Cut a long sheet of aluminum foil and put a plate upside down in the middle. Lower the plate onto the stuffed vine leaves to act as a lid. Turn the heat on, you will need a very low heat. Leave the leaves cooking for about an hour or until all the water has been absorbed by the rice.
Once the water has been absorbed take them off the heat and serve hot or cold with some Greek yogurt.
Vine leaves are great and whilst they take a while to make they keep in the fridge for a few days and are wonderful snacks or starter dishes. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this tutorial! I did this for a friends wedding party and it worked jolly good. It lasts the whole evening ;-)