It is that time of the year that the vineyard on the estate turns into this beautiful autumn wonderworld! And soon after, all the leaves will fall off, and the beautiful life of the Grapevine Cycle will start all over again.
Fortunately, you can harvest more from the vineyards than just grapes! Experts recommend harvesting leaves in late spring or early summer, and of course, the mornings are the best. The leaves toughen and thicken the longer they are in the sun.
Grape leaves have been the Turkish tortilla for centuries. Using grape leaves as a wrap for different fillings kept hands clean and made a portable food item. Reportedly, the practice originated during Alexander the Great’s time, during which food was scarce, and the meat was minced and mixed with other fillings. You can indulge in this traditional Turkish and Mediterranean food source quite easily. Read more
Grape leaves are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre—the reason why it is a popular staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean cultures. We agree with them on a lot, from enjoying wine various of their delicious Mediterranean dishes, so why not try this delicacy as well.
Did you Know?
The use of grape leaves for stuffed grape leaves, also known as dolmas or dolmades, are notably the most iconic Mediterranean food out there.
It is easy to find a recipe to your liking with the overwhelming amount of recipes available online; we found this interesting one!
STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES (DOLMAS)
Prep Time: 45 mins
Cook Time: 60 mins
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: Up to 60 grape leaves
- Two jars (453g) grape leaves in brine (about 60 to 70 leaves); you can also use pickled grape leaves or Fresh leaves
- 1 ½ cup short-grain rice, soaked in plenty of water for 15 minutes, then drained
- Extra virgin olive oil
- One large white onion, finely chopped
- 340g lean ground beef
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 1 tsp allspice
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ cup EACH chopped fresh parsley, fresh dill, and fresh mint
- 1 to 2 tomatoes sliced into rounds
- About 4 cups or more low-sodium chicken broth or water
- Juice of 2 lemons
Prepare the Grape Leaves
- If using jarred grape leaves, remove them from the jar and discard the brine. Rinse the grape leaves well and place them in a colander to drain.
Prepare the Stuffing
- Soak the rice in plenty of water for about 15 to 20 minutes or until you can break one grain of rice easily. Drain well.
- While the rice is soaking, cook the meat—heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook briefly, about 2 minutes or so, tossing until translucent. Add the meat and cook till fully browned, tossing occasionally. Drain any excess fat, then season the meat with kosher salt, pepper, and spices. Toss to combine. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the meat, drained rice, and fresh herbs. Season lightly with kosher salt. Add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and mix so that everything is well incorporated.
Stuff Grape Leaves, Assemble, and Cook
- Prepare a heavy cooking pot and lightly brush the bottom with extra virgin olive oil. Arrange a few grape leaves in the bottom (we used the leaves that didn’t look too great here and made three layers to protect the stuffed leaves from scorching later.) Top with sliced tomatoes.
- To stuff the grape leaves, you will work one leaf at a time. Place one grape leaf on a cutting board, the textured/rough side facing you. Take one heaping teaspoon of the filling and place in the centre of the leave, then fold the sides over the filling and roll (think about this like rolling spring rolls.) Repeat with the remaining grape leaves or until you’re out of stuffing.
- Neatly arrange the grape leaves in a row, seam side down, in your prepared pot, covering the circumference of the pot. Then place a small plate inverted on top. Boil the broth or water and pour over the grape leaves, arriving at the top layer and somewhat covering (about 4 cups liquid, maybe a little more.)
- Now cover the pot with the lid and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. Uncover and remove the plate, then pour the juice of 2 lemons. Cover again with the lid (no need for the plate at this point), cook on low heat for 30 to 45 more minutes or until fully cooked.
- Remove grape leaves from heat. Allow resting uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
- Add a generous drizzle of quality extra virgin olive oil and transfer it to a serving platter.
- Serve with a side of Tzatziki sauce or plain yoghurt and wedges of lemon.
Next time when you walk into a vineyard – please leave the grapes and pick the leaves!
You can make a great afternoon snack of grape leaf pesto and cheeses or surprise your friends with your new favourite recipe as a starter when having a braai.
It should then go without saying be paired with a cold glass of Le Pommier Rosé, of course!