Stuffed grape leaves are very popular in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Persian grape leaves are usually stuffed with ground beef and rice. I have always loved stuffed grape leaves and have fond memories of my grandmother making huge pots of it.
They are fairly easy to make even though a bit time consuming. But I have to tell you, they are worth every bit of the effort!
1/2 lb ground meat
3/4 cup rice
3 cups parsley
2 cups mint
1 cup chives
1 tbsp dried tarragon
2 cups onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 jar grape leaves in brine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper
Small dice onion and saute in some oil until golden. Add minced garlic and ground meat. Season with salt and pepper and cook meat until brown.
Then add the herbs to the meat and saute for a few minutes.
Cook rice in 3 cups of water and some salt.
Add rice to meat and herbs.
Dilute the tomato paste into 4 tablespoons of hot water and add to the mixture. Adjust seasoning and let cook for a few minutes longer until all the juices have evaporated.
Soak grape leaves to rinse off brine.
Place some oil at the bottom of an oven proof dish and spread all over. Then arrange some grape leavings on the bottom of the dish making sure that all the surface is covered.
Take one grape leaf at the time. First snip off the vine from the leaf with scissors.
Place 1 tablespoon of the meat and rice mixture on top of the leaf.
Roll the leaf closed bringing in the sides so that the rice mixture is sealed in.
It might take a couple of tries to get a hang of it. But once you get it, it all goes fast.
Arrange all the stuffed grape leaves in the platter seam side down making sure that they are all snug. I was able to make 65 dolmehs this time around. The number will vary slightly depending on how big or small your leaves are.
Mix lemon juice with 3/4 cup of water and season with salt. Pour over the dolmehs, cover tightly with foil, and bake at at 350° for an hour and half. Add another 1/2 cup of salted water and bake for another half hour.
Some people like to place a dish on top of the dolmeh to keep them from opening. It’s important that the dolmehs are closely packed to each other and also make sure to press down the foil on top when covering it.