Middle East Recipes: Stuffed Grape Leaves

Middle East Recipes: Stuffed Grape Leaves
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Shesh Besh Arab-Israeli recipes: Lamb and rice Stuffed Grape Leaves recipe. Aaron Hanania and Ray Hanania make stuffed grape leaves and show you how you can make it too, whether you are Arab, Israeli, Palestinian or Jewish. It’s one of the most popular Mediterranean food recipes. Video and story

By Aaron Hanania and Ray Hanania

Your Jewish and Arab chefs

This recipe is prepared by an Israeli and a Palestinian. Food is the neutral ground where the two sides can come together in agreement and learn to respect each other and live together as equals in equal sovereign states.

Click here to view the video.

Stuffed grape leaves is a popular main food dish for Arabs and also for Jews. Palestinians and Israelis make it slightly differently but the difference mainly is in the spicing and the preparation of the meat.

This video will show you step-by-step how to make stuffed grape leaves, and demonstrate how easy it is to make regardless of the variation you might apply.

This recipe takes about 2 and 30 minutes to make.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Here are the recipe ingredients:


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2 pounds of ground lamb meat
4 pounds of cut lamb shoulder
4 small lamb chops with bone
2 to 4 Italian sausages
7 pieces of ox tail


Lemon Pepper
Garlic salt
2 beef bullion cubes

Other ingredients:

¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups of white rice
1 cup of water
1 jar of grape leaves (90 leaves per jar)
(You can also use freshly picked grape leaves taken from a garden vine, washed and dried for immediate use)

Here are the Directions, which are also in the video:

Click here to view the video.

Always begin by thoroughly washing your hands. You will get your hands and fingers into the ingredients and you want them to be clean.

Fill up a large pot (tundjara) about 2/3rds of the way with water

Start the water boiling as you add all of the meats except the 2 pounds of ground lamb (ox tail, lamb chops, lamb shoulder and Italian sausage)

You want to cook the meat for at least one hour. Even two hours is better. This will tenderize the meat and soften it for eating enjoyment.

Spice the mixture with your preferred spices and add a ¼ cup of olive oil into the mix.

Preparing the rice for the stuffing mix.

After the pot of meat has cooked between 1 hour and 2 hours, start the grape leaves.

The key to any good rice dish is properly preparing and then cooking the rice. The most important step is to rinse the rice repeatedly to remove the starch. I rinse the rice four times, draining the water each time. You will notice the initially drained water will be cloudy with the starch and it will become clearer each time you rinse it.

Rinsing the rice ensures that the rice cooks better and reduces stickiness and puffiness.

Mix the rinsed 1 and ½ cups of rice with the 2 pounds of diced lamb.

You can change this ratio by adding more rice and reducing the amount of diced lamb, depending on your preference.

Spice the stuffing mixture and add ¼ cup of olive oil, mixing in thoroughly.

Take the jat of diced tomatoes and using the metal top that has been removed, push down and extract the juice from the jar and pour it into the rice and lamb mix. Add water to the war and mix the tomatoes and then pour that into the rice and lamb mix.

Mix the rice and lamb and the ingredients thoroughly using your hands.

Wrapping the Grape Leaves

For many people, the biggest challenge is rolling (liffing in Arabic) the grape leaves. It’s not difficult once you learn how. It’s is much like wrapping a cigar and wrapping a Christmas or Hanukkah gift. The more you do it, the better it turns out.

Open the jar of grape leaves and don’t be afraid to grab the ends and slowly pull them out. Once the leaves are pulled out, rinse them in water and let them drip dry for a few minutes to remove excess water.

Slowly pull apart the usually three rolls of grape leave bundles and flatten them out. You will be picking each leaf individually and placing it on a cooking board or flat board.

The leaf has a bright green side (top side) and a dull rough green side (bottom side). The dull side is the placed up and the mix goes on top so when you roll the leaf, the bright green side is on the outside of the rolled grape leaf.

Open a leaf with the tip pointing away from you and the stem end towards you. If there is a long stem, cut it off at the point where it meets the leaf.

Place an elongated bunch of rice and lamb mixture on the leaf (at a 90 degree angle from the leaf tip) – from left to right.

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally)

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally)

Take the bottom left side of the leaf and pull it over the mix. Take the bottom right side of the leaf and pull it over the rice and lamb mix.

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 3

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 3

Now, take the right side and fold it over the partially covered mixture doing your best to create an imaginary flat side. Now fold the left side over the mixture.

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 4

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 4

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 6

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 6

This should create a rectangle.

Start rolling the leaf away from you and pulling the extended part of the leaf inward as you roll. (In other words, don’t roll the leaf like a rug, roll and pull so the leaf is rolled more tightly.)

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 7

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 7

Don’t over pack the mix into each leaf. Try to use a measure of mixture based on the size of the leaf.

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 8

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 8

You want to create a small cigar-shaped rolled leaf with mix inside that is tightly wrapped.

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 9

Wrapping a grape leaf (Lif Wariq duwally) 9

Do this for each of the 90 leaves as the meat continue to cook at a medium flame on the oven.

When you are done rolling – it takes about 30 minutes to one hour depending on your proficiency (don’t rush it), use some of the leaves that were broken or torn and place them on top of the pile of meat in the pot.

Much of the water should have boiled out and should now just be covering the meat. If there is still too much water, pour some out so the water just barely covers the meat in the pot.

Turn the flame down to a low simmer and place the broken grape leaves on top forming a “tray”.

Now, place each rolled leaf in the pot covering the meat until all of the 90 rolled grape leaves have been placed in the pot and the meat and boiled stew has been covered.

Aaron with a Grape Leave rolled

Aaron with a Grape Leave rolled

Cover the pot and allow to cook at a low flame for 1 hour.


When the recipe is completely cooked, pick up each leaf one at a time and arrange in a large plate for serving.

Once the grape leaves have been removed and placed in a tray or large dish, start removing the cooked meat and place them in separate dishes for serving.

Sahtein!. Enjoy your meal.

For more information on Middle East Arab and Jewish recipes, visit Aaron Hanania’s website at www.Aaron411.com.

We also encourage you to make suggestions on recipes you would like to see us prepare, and also post comments and your thoughts about this recipe on Aaron’s YouTube.com channel www.Aaron411u.com

HERE IS ANOTHER variation of making stuffed grape leaves and stuffed zucchini together that also might help you get the recipe down pat. This video was made in 2008. Click here to view.

Keywords: Step-by-step rolling of grape leaves, Dolmas (Greek Grape Leaves), Sarma, Grapeleaves

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This post has been viewed 28222 times.



Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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