In one of my Vegan MoFo posts way back in October, I introduced you to the wonder that is Mahshi Kousa . I initially had every intention of following up that recipe with a healthy take on vine leaves, but October came and went and the package of vine leaves remained neglected in my cupboard for weeks on end. Until this week, that is. When I caught sight of it underneath a half-full bag of millet, inspiration struck.
Stuffed vine leaves or wara’ enab, as they’re called in Arabic, is pretty much a trademark Mediterranean dish. You’re bound to find them on the menu if you visit any Turkish, Greek or Lebanese restaurant – but as with all regional dishes, each culture makes it a little differently. In the Levant, vine leaves are usually (but not always) stuffed with a rice and meat mixture, and served as a cold appetiser.
In Egypt however, mahshi wara’ enab (that’s stuffed vine leaves to you), is served hot as part of a main meal. The individual rolls are also much smaller in comparison to the Lebanese and Turkish varieties which are hardly bite-sized. It’s also traditionally vegan, made without the addition of meat.
It’s also, delicious.
Millet Stuffed Egyptian Vine Leaves
Makes 30 or so individual rolls
- 1/2 a cup of dry millet*
- 1/3 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup of fresh dill finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, finely diced or around 1/2 cup
- 1 medium red onion, finely diced
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
- 1/2 a tsp of sea salt and black pepper (or more/less to taste)
- 1 package of vine leaves*
- 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock + more as needed
*See recipe notes below
- Combine the millet, fresh herbs, onion, tomato, tomato paste, oil and seasonings in a mixing bowl and incorporate well.
- Roll vine leaves using about a tsp of stuffing per leaf or a little more/less depending on size.
- Line the bottom of a pan with excess vine leaves and arrange so that they all sit tightly together.
- Add vegetable stock until leaves are only just covered, cover and cook on a low heat for 25-30 mins, or until millet is nicely fluffed when you break open the vine leaves. It’s important to make sure the water doesn’t boil so as not to disturb the delicately rolled leaves.
- Serve warm as a main dish with a side of hummus and some peppery rocket, bell pepper and cucumber salad. Alternatively, allow to cool then refrigerate for a couple of hours and serve as cold mezze, drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil Lebanese style.
Now, it’s taken me years of training (I kid you not), but I have finally mastered the art of rolling stuffed vine leaves. I may not be able to roll 10 a minute from the palm of my hand like a certain mother I know, but I’m not too shabby. I realise it may not be as difficult as I’m making it out to be – it’s pretty much like rolling a wrap just a lot smaller.
In any case, here’s a step-by-step to rolling the perfect vine leaves.
How-to: Roll Vine Leaves
1. Lay out the vine leaf so that it’s rough side up, ie. the “veiny” side up. De-stem.
2. Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center. (I didn’t have any left over so I’m just using plain brown rice for the purposes of this tutorial.)
3. Fold both bottom edges inwards to create a point.
4. Tightly fold over the bottom of the point and press down firmly.
5. Roll till you get a uniform cylindrical shape and are about halfway through the leaf.
6. Fold in the edges on both sides.
7. Tuck in edges and roll, continuing to do so as you go along. Fold in remainder of the leaf if needed, as shown above.
Now, a few recipe notes:
- If millet isn’t your thing you could make this using quinoa or short-grain brown rice. The latter will probably be more authentic tasting and just as nutritious.
- If you do decide to use brown rice, soak it in warm water for a couple of hours beforehand – this will help it cook a little quicker.
- If your vine leaves come in a package or jar in brine, they will probably be super salty, soak in hot water for 10 minutes prior to rolling to avoid the entire dish being a salty mess.
- Don’t worry if you have vine leaves or stuffing left over, both will freeze well. If you only have stuffing left over, use it to fill a small red or green bell pepper and cook with the vine leaves like I did here.
Initially I wasn’t sure about using millet, but it fluffs up perfectly and works surprisingly well in place of the traditional white rice. It’s also high in protein, b-complex vitamins and minerals – all the makings of a top notch whole grain in my book.
(Ps. Sorry for the picture heavy post. Who knew vine leaves would photograph so well? )