April 15, 2010

Grape Leaves, aka, My Most Favorite Food EVER

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

In our house, everyone likes grape leaves, even the kids! No, actually, we all love them. Better yet, WE DEVOUR A TRAY IN A MATTER OF MINUTES. We used to just wait to be invited by our Egyptian friends who make the tangy, thick, meat-less version. Then we were introduced to our Palestinian friends who make a thin, tiny, ground-lamb version and now we're in a sort of conundrum as to which we like better. I think its fair to say we  like  love both versions and will gladly clean off a tray of either type on any given day.WARNING: do not be intimidated by the long recipe, anything worth it takes a little work ;) Also, I firmly believe everyone should try making these AT LEAST once in their cooking lives!

Stuffed Grape Leaves - Shaami Style
1 jar of grape leaves, drained and rinsed
Rice and Meat Filling (below)
2 potatoes sliced into circles
2 tomatoes sliced into circles
1/2 - 1 can tomato paste
2+ cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tblsp lemon juice

1. Using a large slotted spoon, submerge leaves (2 or 3 at a time) into boiling water for about 30 - 45 seconds. Remove onto kitchen towel. This will help soften the leaves slightly before cooking.

2. In a heavy bottomed and large pot, layer bottom with sliced potatoes and tomatoes. Lamb chops/ribs or any other meat is another great option. This is primarily to keep the bottom layer of grapes leaves from sticking and also adds more flavor to the overall dish.

3. In a separate pot, add tomatoes paste (use 1/2 - 1 whole can depending on how big your pot of grape leaves is as this will be your cooking liquid, you need it to fill to the top of your pot), enough water to thin liquid, salt , pepper and lemon juice. Cook until dissolved and smooth, remove from heat.

4. Stuff and roll your grape leaves. Use very little (less than a tsp) in each leaf and be careful to wrap tightly so nothing unravels during the cooking process. (For step by step wrapping directions, look here). Layer grape leaves in packed and concentric circles. Carefully pour cooking liquid to the top of the pot. Some people place a small glass dish on top to hold down the leaves while cooking, or you can just place the lid and leave, checking in often to make sure all are submerged. Lower heat to medium low (there should be very few bubbles as this starts to cook). Depending on how many layers of grape leaves you have, this will take from 2 - 4 hours to cook. Long and slow cooking process ensures tender leaves and fully cooked rice inside. Be patient, it's worth it!

1 cup Egyptian or Sushi Rice (short and fat grains)
1 cup ground lamb (ground beef or combination of both works fine. Or leave it out all together)
1/3 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
squeeze of lemon juice or sprinkle of citric acid
salt and pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced (more if you like stronger garlic taste)
2 tsp garam masala or Arabic Spice mix
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 cup olive oil
2 chicken bouillon cubes

1. Soak rice for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. Drain.

2. Warm olive oil on stove over medium heat and dissolve bullion cubes. Remove from heat.

3. To the rice, add meat, salt and pepper to taste, crushed garlic cloves, garam masala or Arabic spice mix (I added some more spices to my liking, feel free to do the same) parsley/cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil mixture and diced tomato. Mix thoroughly with your hands until everything is well combined (take your time here!). Set aside until ready to fill leaves.


  1. they look so good masha'Allah.

    insha'Allah I will try making them soon :)

    jazakAllah khayr.

    by the way, you take very pretty pictures mA...hopefully one day i will get to eat your food iA.

  2. Jazakallah khair, you should totally try it...I know you'll be great! I'm glad you like my simple pics ;)

  3. I'm gonna try these inshaAllah. How many leaves in a jar (grams) and do you know where I can buy from? I'm based in the UK.

  4. CC: I'm not sure about the size of the jar of leaves, but from the brands I've seen, they're pretty standard. My friend made two jars worth, I just used one. You can find these in any middle eastern grocery store, I'm sure you shouldn't have any problem finding them in the UK insha'allah :)

  5. Thanks. Are they the normal tin jar size?

  6. This is the size I get (but any brand will do, insha'allah) : http://www.ziyad.com/pages/ProductDetail.asp?ProdId=490 Its a 16 oz jar. Hope that helps!

  7. Ok, so another dish i havnt heard of! Lol! Ur teachingg mee! =) And looks good, even though i didnt know there were such things as grape leaves! Haha. =D

  8. You gotta make you some Arab friends, girl! :) They're literally the leaves from a grape bush, pickled and stuffed. Yummy!

  9. As salaam aalaykum did you post the meatless recipe ( not a fan of lamb) I have some grape leaves out brought back from the north. Believe me when you eat a grape leaf ummmmmmmmmm yummy! I so wanna make these :) in shaa Allah will check back for recipe. Salaam aalaykum

  10. Walaikum Salaam, you can make this with ground beef (I usually do, its what I have more of in the freezer) or just leave the meat out all together!

  11. seems like im the only person in the world who cooks the ground beef before adding to rice. oh and i add tons of spices to the rice too. i hope u can come over and taste my version! everyone around me loves them!

  12. I'd LOVE to come try your grape leaves! Just tell me when and I'm there ;) I've never heard of cooking the meat first either, does it change the final result any? I'd love to know your recipe too (what other spices you use)!

  13. ive been known as the "use all the spices u have in ur spice cabinet" kinda gal. whatever i have ill use
    (within common sense lol). ill email u my recipe inshallah

  14. is the meat pre-cooked or do you roll it in the leaves raw?

    Thank you!

  15. Anon: Its better to use raw meat for a couple reasons: while cooking, the mixture will absorb the flavors of the meat and vice versa. If the meat is already cooked, you'll still get a great tasting filling, but just not as flavorful as if you used raw. Also, using pre-cooked meat may end up getting too dry, especially if you're using very lean meat. Having said all that, I know people who do use pre-cooked meat and it turns out just fine :)

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  18. We tried making this recipe last night and it turned out fantastic! Tender grape leaves, perfectly cooked rice, and well-seasoned meat. Delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipes! We will definitely make more of your recipes!!

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  22. This is a kurdish famous food ... we say Dolma . :)


Tell me what you think! As always, feedback and reviews are appreciated...happy cooking!