Stuffed Grape Leaves - Warak Inib Mihshee

Total Time
2hrs
Prep 1 hr
Cook 1 hr

This is a combination of my dad's recipe for grape leaves and my cousin's cabbage leaves. I may have made a few modifications over the years, but I can't say for sure.

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 50 large grape leaves, rinsed well to remove brine and drained (available preserve, unless you just happen to have your own grape arbor)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 -5 lamb bones or 6 chicken wings, disjointed
  • 3 -4 garlic cloves, slivered, more to taste
  • 2 to 3 lemons, juice of, more to taste
  • 1 -2 tablespoon dried mint (optional)
  • prepared stuffing
  • 1 cup uncooked rice, parboiled in boiling water for 1 minute, immediately rinsed under cold tap water, and drained well
  • 1 lb lamb (but not too fat, especially if using lamb, I prefer to grind my own lamb since most store bought gro) or 1 lb beef, fat and lean, chopped fine (but not too fat, especially if using lamb, I prefer to grind my own lamb since most store bought gro)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 14 cup chopped parsley
  • 12 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 14 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, quite a bit of pepper
  • 1 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (optional)
  • 14 cup celery leaves, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 -3 tablespoons chopped toasted pine nuts (optional)

Directions

  1. If using preserved grape leaves, unpack from jar, and rinse in a generous amount of cold water, separating leave so excess brine leaches out.
  2. If you actually have access to fresh grape leaves, wash them thoroughly in cold water, drop them, a few at a time, into boiling water for just a couple of seconds to soften, and then transfer them into cold water to stop them from cooking.
  3. Combine all the stuffing ingredients.
  4. Don’t overwork the mixture, just mix it enough to combine the ingredients without compacting everything too much.
  5. Refrigerate for about an hour for flavors to meld.
  6. Prepare a fairly large pot to cook the grape leaves.
  7. Place the lamb or chicken bones in the bottom of the pot.
  8. Cover with any torn grape leaves you may have or a couple cabbage or lettuce leaves, and add just a little water.
  9. To stuff the grape leaves, place a leaf stem-side up on the counter with the stem end closest to you.
  10. Put a heaping teaspoon of stuffing near the stem end, fold the stem end over the filling, fold the sides in, and then roll toward the tip like a small cigar.
  11. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand so everything sticks together.
  12. Stuff the remaining leaves the same way.
  13. Pack the stuffed grape leaves fairly densely into the prepared pot, tucking the slivered garlic cloves here and there.
  14. Drizzle each layer of grape leaves with a little with the lemon juice and sprinkle with a little dried mint.
  15. Add just enough water to just barely cover the rolls.
  16. Cover with more torn grape leaves, cabbage leaves, or lettuce leaves (in a pinch, paper towels), and cover with a small plate to keep them submerged and to keep them from coming unrolling.
  17. Bring them to a simmer over fairly low heat, and simmer for about 1 hour, adding more water as needed.
  18. If desired, about 20 minutes before they are done, carefully remove the lid, covering plate and leaves, paper towels, whatever, and sprinkle with dried mint.
  19. Add a little more water, recover with everything, and continue cooking.
  20. These are best hot or warm.
  21. They are only OK cold-- kind of boring-- just not enough flavor when cold.
  22. Alternative: You can use this same filling to make Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Mahshi Coromb).
  23. I actually like these better than the stuffed grape leaves.
  24. Everything is pretty much the same, except for using cabbage instead of grape leaves, plus a few other minor points.
  25. Find a large head of cabbage that looks real pretty, with nice large outside leaves.
  26. Cut a deep cone to remove most of the core.
  27. Fill a fairly large pan with water, add several tablespoons of salt and bring to a full boil.
  28. Plunge the entire head of cabbage into the water for 10-15 seconds, remove, peel off the outermost layer or layers of leaves, and drop them into cold water.
  29. Repeat, until you have removed all of the larger leaves on the head of cabbage-- even fairly small leaves are OK.
  30. You just end up with big cabbage rolls and small cabbage rolls.
  31. Prepare your cooking pot the same way, except use left over cabbage leaves (or slice up a little of the core) instead of grape leaves.
  32. You will probably have to trim down the heavy main-veins on the cabbage leaves so they can be rolled easily.
  33. Compare how many cabbage leaves you have, their size, and the amount of stuffing you have to determine just how much to put into each leaf.
  34. Roll them up the same way as you would the grape leaves; they will just be a lot bigger.
  35. Pack the cabbage rolls into the cooking pot, add the garlic slivers as before, sprinkle with the lemon juice, and now, you face the only possible change-- but that’s up to you.
  36. Are you ready for one of the biggest decisions of your life?.
  37. You must decide whether to add 3-4 Tbsp of tomato paste to the water you are going to add to the cabbage rolls.
  38. Then you must decide whether you are going to add 1-2 Tbsp of honey or sugar to the same mess.
  39. I have been told that the tomato and honey is a Greek influence on the basic Arabic cuisine, but I don’t really know for sure.
  40. I think the cabbage rolls are better WITH the tomato and honey.
  41. It offsets the little bitterness of the cabbage, but it is your choice.
  42. Everything else is just the same, even the touch of mint if you want to use it.
  43. These are DEFINITELY best when served hot!

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