Lebanese Grape Leaves
Stuffed grape leaves or (mehshe waraa enab) means a lot to me because when I was young, it was my pleasure to help my mom in preparing and cutting the leaves, watching her roll each leaf in the palm of her hand not on the board was amazing and something not everyone can do even myself. It was one of her many special and delicious dishes so we used to gather for this meal because it should be served hot. Now my daughters help roll with me from time to time, we can get it done faster especially when we have to prepare a large pot of stuffed grape leaves. Believe me it is worth the try because nothing beats the lemony taste of this amazing Mediterranean dish.
Prep. time: 45 mins
Cooking time: one hour and 30 mins
Around 1 jar of grape leaves or 80 leaves
4 lamb chops or veal ribs
350 grams ground beef
1 cup rice
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. butter
PREPARATION: In a medium size bowl combine the washed rice, meat, salt, allspice and cinnamon then mix with your hands very well and set aside. Rinse the leaves with warm water few times then drain, put the oil in a large cooking pot and fry the lamb chops or veal ribs after seasoning them with a bit of salt and allspice for few minutes from both sides, turn off the heat then spread few leaves all over them. Now the pot is ready for the leave rolls.
How to roll each leaf: Place the grape leaf facing vein or stem side up on a board with the side of the large vein towards you, if the leaf is large cut in half vertically and if the vein is large cut it out. Put a small amount of the stuffing like the shape of a finger at the edge that is facing you, start rolling the leaf precisely away from your side, closing the edges at the same time as shown in the images.
Don't tighten the roll too much to let the rice expand. Believe me by the time you get to the seventh roll, you will be so quick in a way you can't imagine.
Place the stuffed leaves arranging them in rows on top of the meat chops, after finishing all the layers add one heaped tsp of salt then add a bit of water to wash the salt down, cover with a glass plate upside down that fits inside the pot, this method keeps the grape leaves rolls from getting loose.
Pour water until it covers the plate, close the pot and bring slowly to a boil then put the heat to low and let it simmer for 1 hour and a half, add the squeezed lemons and the butter, put it back to simmer for another 15 minutes.
You can flip it over into a serving dish by taping on the bottom and the sides of the pot after 10 to 15 minutes from turning off the heat. I prefer to serve it hot and it is really delicious with Lebanese bread and yogurt as a side dish.