Stuffed Grape Vine Leaves


 

A wonderful childhood memory of my grandmother – Sito, as she is known in Lebanese – is of her bringing my brother and I behind the neighbourhood swimming pool to pick grapevine leaves to make Yabrek, stuffed grapevine leaves. Although the ultimate payoff was the mouth-watering fingers of lamb meat we would feast on later that evening, also tantalizing to our young tastebuds was to nibble on the new vine shoots, shaped like curly-cues, which often had a sweet flavour to them.

I’ve searched the internet for years to find a recipe that was a close match to the Yabrek I remembered from my childhood. After many trials, my mother finally came across the secret ingredient – rhubarb – which, when added to the cooking pot, adds a distinct sweet flavour that is unmistakeable.

Ingredients:

50 fresh grapevine leaves or 1 15oz. can of preserved leaves
1 Lb. lean ground lamb or beef
1/2 cup rice (I use basmati)
Juice from 1 lemon
1-2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper, cinnamon and allspice

Directions:

1. Prepare the grapevine leaves. If using fresh leaves, soak in boiling water for 10 minutes to soften. If using preserved, soak in warm water for 45 minutes, replacing water several times to remove brine.

2. In a bowl, mix ground lamb or beef, rice, spices and lemon juice. Add a tsp. of warm water to make filling soft, if desired.

3. Line a large saucepan with a few of the grapevine leaves.

4. Place 1 tbsp. of filling (more if leaf is bigger) at the base of each leaf, ensuring that the leaf is vein-side up. Roll up a small amount, tucking in the sides, then roll until the end. Place seam side down in saucepan.

5. Place rolled leaves in layers in the saucepan, drizzle with lemon juice and more salt. If desired, place roughly chopped rhubarb into the pot, to add flavour. Place inverted plate or pie plate on top of leaves whiles cooking, to keep them intact.

6. Add 1-2 cups of water, until it is half way up the pot. Cover saucepan and boil over medium. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with yogourt or melted butter.

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About gentlemangourmet

My name is Mike and even though I’m not always a gentleman, it’s safe to say I am in love with food. Like my more famous namesake, the kid on the cereal commercial from the early 80′s, I had an ability to eat just about anything and “like it.” I’ve become a tad more discerning since my toddler phase: I prefer Pinot Noir to the customary Shiraz my parents liked, I no longer eat parmesan cheese sprinkled from a container, and can pick out which ingredients I like or don’t in a recipe by smell alone. I blame my Lebanese heritage, my large Lebanese nose (all the better for smelling with) and exposure over the past few years to some exquisite ethnic cooking styles and cuisine, as well as to some stunning, inspiring cooks who are family or friends. I’ve included a lot of their favourite recipes on this site, as well as a few of my own that have become my staples over the years. I hope you find something here that you like. Happy cooking! View all posts by gentlemangourmet

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