Lamb-stuffed Grape Leaves

I love this recipe because it involves meat. Many recipes I see for grape leaves are vegetarian, involving lots of rice and sometimes currants or tomatoes or pine nuts or something to make things interesting. But I like the substantial tang of a nice meaty bite when I sink my teeth into a fat little grape leaf roll. My recipe is largely based on the one from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines (William Morrow, 1989). I have scaled it down so it just requires 1 jar of grape leaves, and I have also changed it to use brown rice.

  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • juice of 2 lemons, divided
  • dill
  • allspice
  • olive oil
  • chopped parsley (optional)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 jar grape leaves (8 ounces—or some have 7.7 oz)
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock


First, parboil the rice for 20 minutes. It doesn't matter how much water you use since it will be drained--just be sure the rice is covered with water. I recommend using a heat disperser underneath, if you have one.

Drain the rice and let it cool.

When rice is cool, combine it in a large mixing bowl with lamb, a few generous shakes of dill and the same of allspice, the onion, garlic, parsley (if using), salt, pepper and juice of one lemon. Cover all with a generous pour of olive oil.

Roll up your sleeves, wash your hands and squish everything together thoroughly. Don't be shy.

Here is a very important step. SORT the grape leaves. They are probably all rolled up in your jar. Some are perfect, some are torn, some are huge, some are tiny. I recommend setting up 2 plates and putting all the most "normal" leaves on one plate. Put the freaks on another plate as your B list. This would include anything that is ripped or shredded, leaves that are really tiny and ones that are huge and veiny. You will use the strangest leaves for the layers under, between and over the rolled grape leaves. (This recipe makes 2 layers of grape leaves in my big Dutch oven.) You will probably also end up stuffing some leaves from your B list, but at least you'll get to use all the normal leaves first. Here are my 2 plates, with the A list in the foreground.

Take some of those B-listers and make a layer on the bottom of your cooking pot. You can place the rolled up leaves in here as you make them.

I'm sure most people know how to roll a grape leaf, but I can't resist a blow-by-blow. It's so "food blog"! So. Start with a leaf, smooth side down, on a flat surface. The top point should be pointing away from you.

Put down your filling right at the bottom "crook" of the leaf. How much you need will depend on the size of the leaf. I just try to visualize what the rolled up leaf will look like, and then put down that much filling. Make it a bit "tubular."

Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling.

Then, you guessed it, fold each side over the filling.

Roll everything away from you toward the top point. Here it is en route.

And here it is rolled up.

Tuck the rolls together in your pot. Here's my bottom layer.

When you have a full layer, cover it with B-list leaves and start another layer. Keep going until you've used up the filling. Then, one last layer of leaves on top.

Finally, pour the 1.5 cups of chicken broth and juice of 1 lemon over all. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour on low heat--use a heat disperser if you have one. After an hour, turn off the heat and let the leaves sit for up to an hour before serving.

My cookbook says to serve these with a traditional egg-lemon sauce, but I prefer just plain extra virgin olive oil. Even better is rich green nutty hempseed oil. Kala! (I think that means "good" in Greek.)

1 comment:

Mommy Gourmet said...

Oh I bet those are soo good! Love lamb