A prized delicacy, stuffed vine leaves take pride of place in every Levantine home during a special occasion. When I think back to my childhood, this specialty stands out, not only for its delicious taste but also because of the amount of time it takes to prepare. It was usually a special occasion that had my mother sitting for hours in the kitchen and once they were placed on the table, they would quickly disappear.
- 1.5 hours
- 3 hours
- 6-8 pax
For the Stuffing
- 16 zucchinis, flesh/marrow only
- 1 jar or fresh grape leaves
- 2 cups short grain rice
- 500 g ground beef (or mix 250g of minced lamb with 250 g of minced beef)
- 100 g butter and olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ tsp pepper
- ¾ tsp all spice
- ¾ tsp cinnamon
- 3 cups water (with 1 tsp. salt)
- 3 fresh tomatoes, sliced
- 8-10 lamb chops (optional)
- Juice of 3 lemon
- Core the marrow of the zucchini and set aside.
- If you are using fresh vine leaves, blanch them in boiling water and soak for about 10 minutes, or until soft.
- Transfer the vine leaves to a colander and leave them to drain.
- For the stuffing, wash the rice under hot water for a few minutes then drain and set aside.
- In a bowl, mix together rice, spices and meat and use half the butter, melted. Mix thoroughly.
- Start stuffing the marrow but do not over stuff. If you can fit your ring finger up to the first knuckle, you’re good.
- At the bottom of a large pot, layer the tomato slices.
- Put some lamb chops at the bottom. If you do this, make sure you season them first with some olive oil, all spice, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
- Set up a workstation.
- Spread the vine leaves one at a time over the surface and put enough stuffing in the middle to be able to roll it like a cigarette, repeat until you have finished all the leaves.
- Place the stuffed grape leaves in concentric circles. Once a row or two have been placed, add the stuffed white zucchini on top and then another 2 layers of stuffed grape leaves so the zucchini is in the middle of the pot.
- Pour water over the grape leaves and zucchini and place a plate on top to weigh everything down and make sure the grape leaves do not fall apart.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, simmer for up to 3 hours.
- For the last 30 minutes, pour in the lemon juice.
- To serve, remove the plate and drain the water from the pot
- Place an inverted serving platter over the pot then carefully flip the pot over and lift to reveal the grape leaves, meat and zucchini.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Tanya knew that Palestine was her symbolic homeland. Always curious about her identity and connecting with her roots, she was eager to strengthen her ties to the Levant and traveled the region, desperate to learn more. It wasn’t until her first trip to Palestine that she became spiritually and emotionally connected.
She studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Toronto. She then moved to the UAE, supporting numerous NGOs related to children’s welfare in the region. When she had her own family, she created the My Olive Roots platform in the hopes that her children and the Arabs diaspora would have a place to connect, learn and preserve their roots. Tanya enjoys discovering humanist stories and exploring the connection of food and art with culture.