Stuffed Grape Leaves
Time Well Spent: Stuffed Grape Leaves &
Yogurt Mint-Cucumber Sauce
A few weeks ago I spent a lovely morning with my friend Nermine, a cultural cooking advocate (I love that moniker so much!). She's spent years perfecting her Rolled Grape Leaves recipe and generously shared it with me, though the secret spice mix is still a secret!
More than the recipe I learned about the culture of women coming together to socialise, gossip, trade news, and build community while creating a delicious treat for their families. From ancient to modern times, women coming together in the kitchen is a source of support and empowerment, a way to hand down family lore, hatch plans, and so much more.
Does your family or culture have a similar communal dish? Do you have a memory cooking with the women in your family or community? Please share it with us, we'd love to feature your story and recipe in a future Feeder Newsletter issue.
Serves 10-12 people; Takes several days to make...don't be afraid.
4 cups of water
500 grams of brined or fresh grape leaves
1 tablespoon of oil (canola or olive oil)
1 cup bulgur, rinsed and drained
1/2 kg of ground chicken (thighs and breast) see notes
1 cup of mixed aromatic greens finely chopped (suggestion: parsley, cilantro, dill, mint)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
salt and pepper
4 cloves of garlic, slivered
Juice of one lemon
2 cups of broth (vegetable or beef or a mix)
1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil
2 teaspoons of tomato paste
Yogurt Mint Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon of dry mint
1/4 cup of cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper
Blanch the Grape Leaves
Fill a heavy bottom pan half way with water, bring to a simmer. Add one tablespoon of oil. Toss in the brined grape leaves for about 6-8 minutes. You want to remove some of the brine, but not overcook. Drain the water, remove the thick stems with a sharp knife, and let the leaves come to room temperature. You can do this one day in advance. Store leaves flat and covered in an airtight container.
Prepare the Stuffing
Add the bulgur to a frying pan with hot oil and coat the bulgur with oil and stir for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat, set aside, and let the bulgur come to room temperature.
Put the cooled bulgur to deep mixing bowl. Add ground chicken and the rest of the stuffing ingredients.
Stuff & Roll the Leaves
Lay each leave flat, with the shiny, flatter side face down. Place a cylinder of stuffing in the lower end of the leaf towards the stem. Fold the sides and tightly roll the leaf to form a cigarette shape. Place the roll seam side down in a heavy bottom pot. Repeat the same steps with all the leaves, leaving no space between the rolls in the pan, and creating even layers as you go. You want theses packed in tight!
Scatter the slivered garlic cloves among the layers of rolls. If you aren't going to eat these right away, stop her, cover tightly and store in the fridge until you are going cook them.
Make the Cooking Liquid
Warm the vegetable or beef stock, add lemon juice, tomato paste, olive oil or butter, and salt & pepper.
Cook the Grape Leaves
Pour cooking liquid over the grape leaves. The liquid should just cover the leaves. Set aside any extra.
Place a ceramic or heat resistant dish on top of the pan, pressing against the rolled grape leaves. This step keeps the rolls snug in the pot during the simmering preventing them from falling apart.
On medium heat, bring the liquid to a vigorous boil for 8-10 minutes. Lower the heat so the pot is lightly simmering. Let the liquid simmer for one hour or more until the grape leaves are cooked throughout. Make sure to add more stock whenever the liquid runs low in the pan. Enough liquid in the pan ensures juicy rolled grape leaves and prevents the bottom of the pan from burning.
Serve the Dish
Uncover the pan, try one a one or two rolled grape leaves from the top layer, if the stuffing is cooked through, and the leaves are soft and not stringy, turn off the heat. Let the pan cool for at least 20 minutes. Tilt the pan to discharge some of the liquid into a sauceboat. You won't be able to do the dramatic flip if there is too much liquid!
Carefully invert the pan over a large plate and replace any loose rolls (see notes).
Garnish the dish with lemon wedges, a little of the reserved cooking liquid, and serve it with the yogurt-Mint-Cucumber sauce.
In a medium ceramic or glass dish, mix together greek yogurt, fresh and dry mint, sliced cucumber, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Keep chilled in the fridge until you serve it next to the rolled grape leaves.
Coating the bulgur in hot oil before adding it to the stuffing, protects its nutty texture from getting mushy given the long cooking process.
Using ground chicken made only from breasts yields a fairly dry mixture. Opt for a mix of ground breasts and thighs for a juicy taste and soft texture.
Make sure to wear heatproof gloves when you invert the pan to protect your skin from the hot dripping liquid.
All rights are reserved to Chez Nermine, the creator of this recipe. If you intend to use this recipe for commercial purpose, please contact her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org for terms and conditions of commercial related agreements.