May's vine leaves

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Ask any good Lebanese boy what his favourite home-cooked dish is, and chances are he will nominate his mum's stuffed vine leaves. This is Greg's mother's recipe, which we both love because of the neat way in which both the first course and meat course are prepared together in one large pot.

Ask any good Lebanese boy what his favourite home-cooked dish is, and chances are he will nominate his mum's stuffed vine leaves. This is Greg's mother's recipe, which we both love because of the neat way in which both the first course and meat course are prepared together in one large pot.

During the cooking process, all the bubbling juices rise to impregnate the stuffed vine leaves. These you eat first, with plenty of creamy yoghurt.

1kg vine leaves
300g medium-grain rice
500g minced lamb
1 teaspoon allspice
1/ 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
4 lamb chops from the neck (or chump chops)
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
750ml water
juice of 2 lemons

If using preserved vine leaves, soak them well, then rinse and pat dry. Fresh vine leaves should be blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds and refreshed in cold water. Wash rice and mix with lamb, spices, salt and pepper. Lay leaves out, vein side up and slice out stems. Place a spoonful of filling across the base of the leaf.

Roll it over once, fold in the sides and continue to roll it into a neat sausage shape. The dolmades should be around the size of your little finger - don't roll them too tightly or they will burst while cooking. Continue until the filling is all used.

Lay the lamb chops on the bottom of a casserole dish. Pack the vine leaves on top, push the garlic cloves in among them. Pour in the water and lemon juice and keep them submerged. Bring to the boil, then simmer for an hour. The vine leaves can be eaten hot, warm or even cold. If serving them hot, take them out of the pot and arrange them in a pile on a serving dish. Lay the lamb alongside to be eaten with or after the vine leaves.

If you plan to eat the dish cold, cool everything in the casserole dish. The whole thing will solidify. Run a knife around the side of the dish, then invert it, a bit like a cake, onto a serving dish and allow everyone to help themselves.

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