Dawali (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Nadir Abu-Seif

1½ hours

50 stuffed grape leaves

Photography: Dor Kedmi

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.

Peer into Nadir Abu-Seif’s Jaffa kitchen.

Meat | Palestinian Cooking

Ingredients

  • 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
  • Salt
  • 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
  • Salt

Preparation

  1. Prepare the filling: Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

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