Daring Kitchen 2010: October Challenge - Stuffed Grape Leaves

Rinsed & Trimmed Grape Leaves - ready for stuffing
This month's challenge was stuffed grape leaves.  I had the pleasure of enjoying a version of these in Greece last fall and they were wonderful.  I made a couple of tweaks to the delicious recipes that were provided this months by the challenge's hosts.

This month's hostess was Lori of Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness, and she challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves.  Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern food.

They turned out beautifully - I made my own tomato sauce to cook them in, using the flavours in the recipe as a springboard for some creating.  I substituted pepitas for the pine nuts, as that's what I had in the cupboard.  I also liked the idea of the tamarind, but wanted something with more tomato flavour, so I combined those ideas and created a sauce with tomato juice, tamarind and cloves, to accentuate the spices in the filling.  Excellent job Lori - thanks for this challenge, I will make them again!

Here is the recipe Lori provided:
Grape Leaves Stuffed with Ground Meat and Rice with Apricot Tamarind Sauce/ Yebra
Adapted from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck and Michael J. Cohen. Published by Harper Collins, 2007

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Ingredients for hashu/filling:
1 pound (455 gm) ground (minced) beef
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 1/3 oz) (65 gm) short grain rice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) all spice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) kosher (coarse) salt **if using regular table salt only use ½ tsp.**
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) white pepper
1 onion, chopped **optional**
1 cup (5½ oz) (150 gm) pine nuts **optional**

1.Soak rice in water, enough to cover, for 30 minutes. Combine meat, rice, allspice, vegetable oil, cinnamon, salt, white pepper, and if desired, onion and pine nuts, in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.

Ingredients for assembly:
1 pound (455 gm) hashu/filling (see recipe above)
36 preserved grape leaves, stems trimmed, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
6 dried apricots – or more if you desire
3 tablespoons (45 ml) tamarind concentrate **if you can’t find it, you can omit it**
¼ cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (9 gm) kosher (coarse) salt **if using regular table salt only use 1.5 tsp.**
If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.
If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.

Tamarind is actually fairly easy to find.  There is a paste that is in package already made up.  You can find it at Asian, Mexican or Indian grocers.  You can also find the pods (a little more difficult) and make it yourself.  It is akin to a sweet/tangy tea flavor. If you can’t find it, you can skip the sauce all togheter. The grape leaves will be just as delicious without the sauce. But we hope that those that can find it will use it.

1.Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up. You can trim the little stem if you would like.
2.Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.
3.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.
4.Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
a.(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)
5.In a medium saucepan put in the vegetable oil and then place the filled grape leaves in the pot.
6.Place apricots in between the stuffed grape leaves. Cover and cook over low heat for 5- 8 minutes or until the grape leaves begin to sweat.
7.Using all three tablespoons, place a little of the tamarind concentrate, if using, over the rolls.
8.Combine lemon juice, salt, and water then add to pan, filling it ¾ full.
9.Weigh down the grape leaves with a heat proof plate or board to prevent them from unraveling. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes.
a.Alternatively, place the saucepan in an oven preheated to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and cook for an hour.
10.Spoon cooking liquid over the grape leaves occasionally. You will know they are done, when the grape leaves are neither soupy nor dry.
11.Tilt pan sideways over serving platter, allowing the grape leaves to tumble out. Try not to handle them individually to reduce unraveling.
a.Alternately you can try spooning them out very gently.

Fresh from the oven

A friend recently returned from a trip to Mexico and brought me home a ball of tamarind paste that had been coated with chile.  This is where I decided to use it.  Here is my recipe for the sauce:
1-1/2 cups of tomato juice
1 tb tomato paste
2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf

Simmer all ingredients for 15 minutes, then pour over rolls and bake at 350F for one hour.

The tamarind ball

The delicious finished product


  1. I have never seen a tamarind ball coated in chillies. Your final rolls look superb and I really like your modification in the recipe are well thought out also. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. They look wonderful! Happy to have been able to make a flavourful contribution!

    LY from the fringes of the West End

  3. That looks great! I bet the tomato sauce was a nice addition, as it certainly makes stuffed cabbage leaves delicious.