This is one of the types of recipes I’m always going on about- you know, the type of recipe that isn’t very hard to make, but seems fancy and a little special? I would’t recommend this for a busy weeknight when everyone is starving and about to have a meltdown if they don’t eat something soon, but if you have a bit of extra time this is really quite a simple process, and fun to do!
The Grape Leaves:
You can find grape leaves in a jar, most likely near the olive section of your local grocery store. They come wrapped up on a big roll, sort of like a loose cigar. Take this big roll out, rinse each leaf individually and pat dry, stacking on a small plate to prep them for wrapping.
You will also need 1-2 large lemons.
For the rice part of the Filling:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 Cup arborio rice
1 Can diced tomatoes
1 Can chicken Stock
2 Bay leaves
For the lamb part:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 Lb ground lamb
Splash red wine (optional)
3 Tbsp mint leaves, chopped very fine
Preheat the oven to 350. Place an oven-safe dish full of water in the oven as well. This will help to keep the air in the oven moist.
To make the rice:
1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic clove, the dried parsley, dried basil, and as much pepper as you like. (I always add my spices to the oil, so it gets infused with the flavors).
2. Add the rice to the oil and spices. Stir it around in the hot oil until some of the rice starts to become opaque, like this:
3. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and the chicken stock, Stir to combine, and cover. Let simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. If the liquid level seems to be getting too low before the rice is cooked, add more water.
For the Lamb part:
1. In a large pot (this really does need to be pretty large, as the rice will eventually need to go in here as well), Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add salt, onion, bell pepper, and garlic, stirring until the onions and peppers begin to become translucent.
2. Add the ground lamb, and the wine if using, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break it apart as it cooks.
3. When the lamb is almost entirely cooked through, add the mint. Continue to stir.
For the rolls:
When both the rice and the lamb mixture are fully cooked, dump the rice into the lab, and stir it all up. Now you are ready for the fun part!
1. You want to vein-y part of the leaf to be on the inside of the roll, so place you leaf on your surface with this side facing up, like so:
Then, put a little of your filling in the middle.
Roll it up by folding the outer edges inward, and then rolling it way from you, and place it in a casserole dish. Repeat.
As you complete each layer, squeeze lemon juice over the top.
Place in the oven. Watch carefully! The leaves don’t need much cooking, you just want to soften them a bit. This will take about 7 minutes
Serve with additional lemon wedges. These would also be very good with some tzaziki sauce.