These perfectly rolled grape leaves are cooked with lamb chops, which adds a richness to the finished dish. The sauce is heavy on garlic and lemon, and typical of Taibeh, the hometown of Nadir Abu-Seif’s mother who taught her how to prepare this dish. “Stuffed grape leaves are everywhere, but every place has its own version,” says Nadir. For a more festive version, the lamb chops are stuffed with the grape leaves and slow roasted, absorbing the delicious fats and rich flavors.
- For the filling
- 8.8 ounces / 250 grams round rice (preferably shukha rice – broken round rice, or arborio)
- 8.8 ounces / 250 grams ground beef
- ¼ tablespoon ground allspice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- For the leaves
- 1 jar grape leaves (about 50 grape leaves)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1-2 lamb chops
- 2 potatoes, peeled and coarsely sliced
- For cooking
- 2½ cups (600ml) water
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Prepare the filling: Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl.
- Prepare the grape leaves: To rid the grape leaves from their pickling liquids, bring a pot with plenty of water to a boil over a high heat. Poach the grape leaves in the water for 5 minutes. Strain.
- Place a grape leaf on the work surface so that the smooth side is facing down and the base is nearest to you. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling across the base of the leaf and roll the bottom of the leaf over the filling. Fold in the side edges and roll to a thin cigar. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling. Set aside.
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the lamb chops with salt and black pepper and brown in the hot pan on both sides.
- Pour ¼ cup olive oil into a medium-sized pot and arrange a single layer of the potato slices on the bottom of the pot. Place the lamb chops on top.
- Arrange the grape leaves over the lamb. Follow Nadir’s method: start in the outer circle along the edge of the pot and continue to form a densely packed and beautiful single layer.
- Mix the water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a bowl and gradually add to the pot. The liquid should reach 1.2-inches / 3-cm above the grape leaves level. Place an inverted plate over the grape leaves to prevent them from floating and falling apart. Bring to a boil over a medium heat. Reduce to a low flame, cook covered for 40 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.