Yaprak Sarma (stuffed vine leaves)

One  of my most favourite Turkish dishes.

You will need vine leaves – either fresh, packed or tinned.  The tinned and packed ones are usually stored in brine so will need a bit of a wash before you use them.

For the filling you will need:

1 medium onion

100g minced beef or lamb

a cup of rice

a handful of pine nuts or some of the pasta we use to cheat in Turkey  (Optional)

black pepper (to taste)

mint (to taste)

fresh parsley (to taste)

sage (to taste)

salt (to taste)

lemon juice

3 cloves of garlic

a teaspoon of tomato puree

some people like to add sultanas but I don’t really like them.

olive oil and a knob of butter

Melt the knob of butter in a deep frying pan.   Add the onions and garlic and fry until slightly transparent.  Add the pine nuts or the pasta and fry until brown.  Add a 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the minced meat and your seasonings.  When the meat looks cooked stir through a teaspoon of tomato puree. Add the rice and enough water to just cover the mix.  Cook on a low heat with a lid on until the water has been absorbed.

Wash  your vine leaves and de-stalk them.  A small v shaped cut wither side of the stalk should do it – be careful not to tear them.  The veined paler green side is the inside and where you will be placing the filling.

Once your stuffing is cooked – lay a leaf matte side up on a clean chopping board (I use a big board and lay out 6 at a time) with the missing stalk piece at the bottom place a thin strip of filling cross ways onto the leaf.  Roll the bottom over one, fold both the sides in and over the roll and then continue rolling.  Place the completed leaf in the bottom of a large pan.  Continue until you have used all your leaves or stuffing.  You should keep placing additional layers of completed leaves in the pan.

Once you have finished put something heavy on top of the leaves.  I use a steel saucepan lid that is slightly smaller than the pan I am cooking them in.  This will stop them floating.  Pour boiling water into the pan until it just covers the leaves – add a lid to the pan and cook on a medium heat for 20 – 30 minutes – you can top up the water if you need to.

Leave to cool for about 10 minutes and then gently lift them out with a slotted spoon,, drain and place on a serving dish.  Everyone says best served at room temperature but I love mine from the fridge.

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