Although stuffed grape leaves probably did not originate in Egypt, they are one of the favorite foods of Egyptians. If you are invited to an Egyptian home for dinner, you will most likely be served stuffed grape leaves (or stuffed vegetables of some kind).
The Lebanese version of stuffed grape leaves is originally vegan, but it is not exactly the version Egyptians have come to love. So, below, you will find our veganized version of Egyptian stuffed grape leaves, based, of course, on Mary’s mother’s recipe!
Makes about 50 stuffed leaves (Serves about 6, as a side dish)
For the rice mix:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rice, raw
1 onion, minced
1 tomato, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
About half a kilo (500 g) or 50 grape leaves. These can be fresh or preserved in liquid in a jar. (I have used both and this time, I used them from a jar.)
For layering the pot:
3 garlic cloves (in slices to be placed between layers of stuffed leaves)
2 tomatoes (in slices for the bottom, top and between layers of stuffed leaves)
For the soup:
4 cups water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
Prepare the rice mix:
1. Mix the rice, minced garlic, onion, tomato, dried mint, pepper, salt, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.
Prepare the leaves:
2. Whether you are using preserved or fresh leaves, you will need to rinse and ‘blanch’ them. [To ‘blanch’: Boil about a liter of water in a pot. Prepare another liter of cold water in a bowl. In bunches, put the leaves in the boiling water for 3 minutes and then remove them and place them in the cold water for a few minutes. Then, drain in a colander.]
3. Each leaf has a shiny side and a duller side. The dull side also is where you can see the stem of the leaf. Be sure to have the shiny side facing down as you wrap. Be gentle as you work with the leaves. They can be very fragile.
4. On the bottom of a medium-sized soup pot, layer some of the leaves that got ripped as you ‘blanched them’, any stems you don’t want and a few tomatoes and garlic. Now, you will begin to make the stuffed leaves and layer them in the pot.
5. With the leaf shiny side down, spoon a heaping teaspoon of rice mixture close to the stem of the leaf. Begin rolling the leaf stem-side first. I always gather the sides along as I go, which makes for a tighter, neater roll.
6. Once you finish a layer, add more tomato and garlic slices. Be sure your layer is as even and complete as you can make it. If you want to present this in the traditional serving style, this will make a difference.
7. Continue until you fill up the pot. Don’t forget to add tomato and garlic slices between each layer and on the final layer (on top!)
8. Cover the top layer with a heavy inverted plate. This will help keep all the rolls stable as they cook.
Make the soup:
9. Mix the 4 cups of water and 2 bouillon cubes in a small pot over medium heat. Heat until boiling.
10. Pour the soup over the stuffed layers (and plate) until the soup covers the plate. Cover the pot with a lid and cook on medium low heat for about 30 – 45 minutes. Check towards the end to be sure nothing is burning. You’ll know the rolls are ready once most of the liquid is gone.
11. Remove the plate from the top layer. Check that the rice is done.
For traditional serving style:
12. Cover the top of the pot with a large plate (large enough so the edges extend over the pot). Holding the pot handles and the plate at the same time, flip the pot over so the contents will now be on the plate. (If your pot was the right size, this should work fine for you. Mine was a bit large this time.) When you remove the pot, you should have a well stacked, pretty presentation for your stuffed grape leaves. (You can easily remove the broken leaves, stems, and tomatoes we added on the bottom of the pot, which will now appear on the top of your stack.)
OR – if this doesn’t work out for you, you can serve them on a plate – no biggy!
Serving Suggestions and Variations:
- Serve with non-dairy yogurt ( 😦 We don’t have that in Egypt – but it would be delicious…)
- Serve as a side dish or main dish!
- Instead of tomatoes and garlic, you can use lemon slices and / or lemon juice between layers.
- Serve hot or cold. (We like them both ways!!!)
Nutritional Information (for 1 stuffed grape leaf):
Calories: 28; Fat: less than 1 g; Cholesterol: 0g; Carbohydrates: 4g; Fiber: less than 1 g; Protein: less than 1 g