Stuffed Vine Leaves are one of those epic Lebanese Dishes that always feel like a little gift from God. Some of my vegetarian friends will even claim that this one doesn’t count as a meat dish, because one must never say no this token of love. The complexity of this dish doesn’t come from the difficulty of the cooking technique, which you will see is quite simple. Rather, it comes from the amount of love and patience it takes to perfectly roll dozens of vine leaves. Of course it doesn’t help that I always decide to start making this dish at 10 PM on a Friday night.
- 400 Grams of Minced Beef
- 10-12 Lamb Chops
- A jar of preserved vine leaves, or fresh vine leaves if you can find them
- 10-12 Garlic Cloves
- 2 Cups of Rice
- The Juice of 2 lemons
- Sal & Pepper to taste
- Salt and pepper the lamb chops, fry them in ghee (vegetaline) for 2 minutes on each side, then place them at the bottom of your pot in a circular fashion.
- Cook the minced beef in ghee (vegetaline) until cooked through, seasoning it with salt and pepper.
- Add the rice to the meat for 2 minutes, stirring it to ensure the rice becomes covered in fat.
- Boil the vine leaves in water for a few seconds, until they become soft.
- Place the vine leaf on a working counter, place the tiniest amount of stuffing, fold the side (as you would with a t-shirt) then roll the vine leaf to create a tightly packed cylinder.
- Place the vines leave on top of the lamb chops. Place garlic cloves in between the vine leave layers, at random.
- You can prepare this a day ahead if you want.
- When you’re ready to cook them, sprinkle the top layer of the vine leaves with salt, pour enough water to cover, pour in the lemon juice. Place a plate on the vine leaves to push them down (adding pressure to make sure they don’t loosen up while cooking).
- Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, and cook them for another 30 minutes or until the vine leaves are cooked through (you’re going to have to take one out and taste it).
- Add salt or lemon juice if you need to.
- Once cooked, ask someone to hold the plate in place, while you pour out the sauce into a saucer (you will use this as the sauce for the dish when you serve it) and to reheat it the next day.
- Once the water has been removed, place a large flat dish on the pot and flip it. Gently shake the vine leaves out of the pot, trying to keep everything in place while doing so.
- Pat yourself on the back.
Tips: Some families also add stuffed zucchinis, which they stuff with the same meat & rice mixture. I like to eat this dish with yogurt on the side.