“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”
W. Somerset Maugham
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Balance… it’s something that I spend a lot of time considering. How to attain it, how to maintain it, how to roll it into every aspect of my life. Striking a balance requires both strength and flexibility. I suppose that’s why yoga has become such an important part of my life.
Trying to maintain a certain balance in day to day life extends of course to cooking. This stuffed grape leaves recipe although traditional, is also quite flexible and allows for a certain balance based on what any particular day may hold, be it mindful clean eating or flat out decadence. For example, I’ve used brown rice as opposed to white to “clean” it up, I’ve also used ground chicken instead of beef and/or lamb to minimize the red meat (and fat) intake. There is a vegetarian version too. As delicious as each of these variations are, I have to say today is not one of those days 🙂
Are they time consuming to prepare? Yes. Are they worth it? One hundred times YES! Find some friends to roll with you, or put something funny on YouTube and watch while you roll. You will never ever be disappointed that you have spent the time making these gorgeous little morsels.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a grape vine, I would ALWAYS recommend fresh. In this part of the world however, that is not always an option. If you’re using the jarred and brined leaves I do suggest experimenting with different brands. Not just to find a brand which you prefer, but to find which brand has the most tender leaves and in which season. It varies rather dramatically in my experience! And don’t think that you MUST go to a middle eastern deli to find the jarred leaves. I’ve often found them in everyday run of the mill grocery stores too.
Regarding the meat mixture, I am required by law as a woman of Middle Eastern descent to state most clearly that you must be cautious of overworking it as tough grape leaves are a sin. Ideally, they will also be uniform, but that really is a function of the size of the leaves and you sort of have to take what you can get with the jarred ones. I mean let’s face it, we don’t all have time to be out for hours hand selecting similarly sized leaves from the neighbours grape vine… I mean who knows when they’ll come home right?
I’ve made a short video on the making of grape leaves. Take a moment to watch it here.
Enjoy & Namaste!
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb ground lamb
- ½ cup long grain rice
- 2 tbsp Syrian Spice
- Rhubarb (if available) or Beef/Lamb bones (if available)
- Beef stock (to cover)
- Garlic - peeled and smashed (omit if preferred)
- splash of lemon juice
- Combine meat, rice and seasonings.
- Rinse and drain grape leaves.
- Roll leaves, vein side in, shaping meat and rolling leaves around neatly.
- Arrange leaves in pot in a circular fashion over either rhubarb, or meat bones if available.
- Top with smashed garlic and stock (or water if preferred)
- Simmer covered over low heat for approximately 30-40 minutes.
- Splash with lemon juice before serving
- Serve with plain yogurt as a side dish or a main
- This amount of meat and rice makes approximately 60 leaves