This easy, exotic Mediterranean treat makes a fine appetizer or side dish with lunch or dinner. The Greeks call them dolmades and the Egyptians call them wara' enab (which translates literally to vine leaves).
Get all family entertained (including kids) by teaching them how to stuff leaves and roll them up! You can do it in batches and freeze it.
I learned how to make it with my partner’s mum, in Cairo during my holidays. I liked it so much that I had to writte the recipe down.
Eating vine leaves is not part of my culture and when I told my parents in Portugal to save the vine leaves from their farm so we can make this recipe they found it very odd and didn’t understand that we were really going to eat the vine leaves! They thought, we would just cook the rice in the leaf, then unfolded and eat the rice, like the iacas from Venezuela that are cooked using banana tree leaves, but the leaf is not eaten.
Grape leaves are extremely healthy!
They are both low in calories and high in fiber. They also have high amounts of vitamin A, important for a health vision and skin and vitamin K, important for bone and heart health.
Additionally, they have a very high antioxidant content. In fact, research suggests that grape leaves have ten times the antioxidant activity of grape juice or pulp.
Grape leaves in the UK are not readily available fresh, so you will have to buy them bottled or canned (usually from Middle East supermarkets). They are packed in brine, a salty solution that you’ll want to rinse off before using. Gently lift the leaves out of the jar, lay them in a bowl, and run them under a soft stream of water, letting the water completely drench the leaves. To dry, lay the leaves in a colander and let them drain, or lay them on a flat surface and pat dry with a clean cloth.
If you are lucky to have a vineyard nearby and get fresh leaves that’s even better! In Egypt they actually sell fresh leaves in the market. The best time of the year to pick them up are in the spring season, you can pick extra leaves and freeze them in batches. In autumn season the leaves became bitter and too hard.
Hi, I'm Joana, a Portuguese registered dietitian in the UK. I am passionate about helping others achieving their health goals.