Stuffed Vine Leaves


© Børre Ludvigsen, 1998

        1 lb. fresh tender vine leaves
        2 cups ground or chopped meat, preferably lamb
        Several meat bones
        1 1/2 cups rice
        2 whole garlic cloves
        8 garlic cloves crushed with salt
        1/2 cup lemon juice
        1 1/2 tsp. salt
        1/2 tsp. pepper
        1/2 tsp. cinnamon
        2 cups cold water
        2 medium sized tomatoes, sliced
        1 medium sized tomato, chopped (optional)
        1 tsp. dried mint
Cinnamon and mint seasoning make this version of a popular eastern Mediterranean food typically Lebanese. Soften and blanch vine leaves by dipping a few at a time in boiling, salted water. Set aside. Wash rice and mix with ground meat, chopped tomato, salt, pepper, cinnamon and one half cup cold water. Stuff one leaf at a time. Place a teaspoon of stuffing in the center of each. Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the stuffing, then fold from each side to the middle. Roll tightly to form a cylinder about three inches long and somewhat thicker than a cigar (see accompanying illustration).

Place layer of bones in pressure cooker and cover with sliced tomatoes and the whole garlic. Arrange rolls side by side in layers on the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. Add water. Cook under pressure 12 minutes. Simmer uncovered to reduce sauce. Mix one half cup of the sauce with crushed garlic and mint. Sprinkle this over the mahshi and simmer a few more minutes to enhance flavor. Remove mahshi carefully from cooking pan. Cool fingers in cold water to facilitate handling the hot rolls. Arrange on platter. Serve hot with bowl of the sauce.

Cook without pressure if you prefer. Prepare as above. Arrange mahshi over layer of bones and sliced tomatoes. When all has been added, press down firmly with palm of the hand. Add water to cover, salt, and cook about an hour, or until leaves are tender and the stuffing is well cooked. Sprinkle with lemon juice, minced garlic and dried mint. Simmer few more minutes.

(From Food from the Arab World Marie Karam Khayat and Margaret Clark Keatinge, Khayat's, Beirut 1959)