We are fascinated with using vine leaves for cooking. While everyone is familiar with dolmades, there are quite a number of dishes that are complemented by the flavour and aroma of the grape vine leaves.
This recipe is sort of a lazy man’s dolmades – a rice mixture baked in layers with vine leaves, and encrusted with vine leaves. It comes out as a pie, and is cut into wedges to be served with lemon and pomegranate molasses. The rice is herby, nutty, and slightly sweet from the currants. Some Middle Eastern flavours there. The recipe comes together easily, tastes great, and can be eaten warm or cold. It is an excellent contribution to a table of mezze.
Line the pot with scalded vine leaves that have had their stem removed. Allow the leaves to hand over the side, and these will be folded over the top when the rice mixture is added.
Rice Baked in Vine Leaves | Grape Leaf Encrusted Rice Pie
30 fresh grape leaves
2 Tblspn extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more
1 large onion, finely diced
1 cup rice
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup Greek or Indian yoghurt
1 cup chopped unsalted, hulled pistachios
1 cup chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed
1 cup chopped fresh mint, loosely packed
1 cup currants
2 – 3 Tblspn lemon juice
sea salt and black pepper
pomegranate molasses, for drizzling over the baked dish
1 lemon, sliced, for garnish
Heat the oven to 175C. Put the vine leaves in a shallow bowl, cover with boiling water, leave for a few minutes (up to 10 mins), then remove and dry on a tea towel. Trim off and discard the bit of hard stem at the base of each leaf.
Sauté the shallots in a Tblspn of olive oil for about eight minutes, until light brown. Add to the rice, and cook as usual in a rice cooker or stove top until the water is absorbed. Add the tomato juice, yoghurt, pistachios, parsley, mint, currants, and lemon juice to the rice and mix well. Season with sea salt and black pepper. The mixture will be quite wet.
Take a round, shallow ovenproof dish around 15cm – 20cm in diameter, brush with some olive oil, and cover its base and sides with vine leaves – let them hang over the edge. Liberally brush the leaves with olive oil.
Spread half of rice mixture over the vine leaves then add a layer of more vine leaves, then top with remaining rice mixture. Cover the dish with the remaining leaves, and seal by folding in the overhanging leaves.
Brush the top with olive oil and bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the vine leaves on top darken and casserole looks firm and dry.
Allow the dish to sit for 10 minutes. Turn it out onto a platter, so that the bottom of the pie is showing. I prefer this at room temperature – the filling firms up and it is easy to cut and serve. But it is also delicious eaten warm. Your choice.
If you are allowing the dish to cool to room temp, place some sliced lemon sliced on top of the dish. Remove them before cutting the pie.
When the dish is at your preferred temperature, cut into wedges, garnish with lemon slices, and drizzle with pomegranate molasses.
recipe notes and alternatives
This dish can be made the day before, covered well and kept in the fridge until needed. Remove from the fridge at least 15 mins before serving.
I like to smear the top (after turning the pie out) with a little pomegranate molasses or quince molasses then cover the top with lemon slices,, and chill it overnight, to have for lunch then next day. The molasses is mostly absorbed by the vine leaves and it is delicious. The lemon slices add a lovely tang and can be served with the dish.
The choice of rice is important. I prefer to avoid the aged, super long grained basmati rice as it does not stick together. Look for a rice that keeps its integrity, yet the rice grains cling together. I use idli rice a lot for this sort of dish, as it retains its individual grains yet clings together without starchiness.
If you have any left over filling, make vine leaf parcels and grill in the BBQ or stove grill plate. Serve with some lemony yoghurt and pomegranate molasses.
This time it was paired with some fried dried okra in yoghurt with spices (Dried Okra Pachadi).