October Daring Cook’s challenge – stuffed grape leaves

As it turns out, we can’t do everything. As much as we try, sometimes things have to take a backseat *shock*horror*. Frank and I have been very busy lately with work and friends, and getting the house ready for Dude, Pea and my beautiful niece Bean’s visit to the Promised Land (YAAAAY, I am counting down the days!!!!!) Ignoring the ever-increasing to-do list, I not only was game to do this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge, but a baking one as well. And I almost didn’t get to finish either!

Luckily I managed to scrounge some time on Sunday afternoon to nut out both challenges. I was disappointed I never have them the full dedication I normally do, but I am relieved to have them done. So apologies in advance for the sub-standard work everyone!

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

When I read what October’s challenge was going to be, I immediately thought: my mom would love this! From a young age I remember my mom saying how delicious dolmades are. I contacted Pistol (he is of Greek decent) to find out where I could get vine leaves from, and his suggestions of a Greek suburb near us were great. Of course with so many things going on, Frank and I didn’t get the chance to source the vine leaves. (And I’m not the biggest fan of them, I find them a  bit tough and stringy)

Our wonderful hostess Lori suggested that we could use cabbage as alternative, which I decided to do. I could only find dwarf cabbages in the supermarket, and with a whole head of cabbage I managed to only pull off 10 leaves intact! So I halved the recipe to make just enough dolmades for the two of us for dinner. The recipe was straight-forward and easy to follow. I’ll definitely be making these for when Mom comes to visit Australia in November!

Wara Einab or Dolma/Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves – recipe adapted from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

24 – 30 preserved or fresh grape leaves (or cabbage leaves)
1¼ cups (300 ml) long grain rice
1- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons (30 ml) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons (30 ml) crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dill
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more


If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.

Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain. Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up. Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge.

As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.

Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)

Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves Place a whole garlic clove in between them for extra flavor. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.

Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, a cup at a time, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed.

Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.

7 Responses to “October Daring Cook’s challenge – stuffed grape leaves”

  1. 1 Ellie 14/10/2010 at 7:02 pm

    I share your opinion on the grape leaves, they can be tough. Maybe I should try cabbage leaves? These look great!

  2. 2 Audax Artifex 14/10/2010 at 11:16 pm

    Well done on this challenge and I love how you used cabbage leaves. Nice work. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  3. 3 Soy @ honeyandsoy 14/10/2010 at 11:22 pm

    Wow, glad you managed to find the time to do this challenge, I think it’s a great idea!

  4. 4 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 14/10/2010 at 11:42 pm

    Good on you for doing this! I’ve made dolmades and whilst I love the taste of them I don’t have the patience 😛

  5. 5 Renae 15/10/2010 at 6:58 am

    Those look great!

  6. 6 Anna Johnston 15/10/2010 at 7:39 pm

    I’m with you Loll. I don’t really like the taste of grape leaves, so dolmades made with all the ‘correct’ ingredients are not my thing…., BUT.., you’ve done them with cabbage leaves.., mighty fine thinking there.., I would love this.., so, high fives 😉

  7. 7 Jenni 15/10/2010 at 9:56 pm

    Great job! I think your dolmades look great! No sub par cooking here! 🙂

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