Unearth the alluring flavors of Bulgarian cuisine with this gourmet recipe for meat-stuffed vine leaves, otherwise known as Bulgarian Lozovi Sarmi. This dish is a harmonious fusion of succulent meat, hearty rice, and delicate vine leaves, served with a creamy yogurt sauce. It’s not just a meal, but a delightful culinary journey that takes you to the heart of Bulgaria, where this dish is traditionally enjoyed on festive occasions.
Preparation time: Approximately 1 hour, plus 1 hour cooking time
Ingredients (for four people)
- 40 fresh or pickled vine leaves
- 500g of lean ground beef
- 1 cup of uncooked round rice
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Approx. 50g sunflower or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of dried mint
- 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups of natural yogurt
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 2 egg yolks
- Fresh mint leaves for garnish
Method to prepare the stuffed vine leaves with meat
- Start by preparing the vine leaves. If using fresh leaves, blanch them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until they soften. If using pickled leaves, rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove excess salt.
- Heat the sunflower oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and sauté until they turn soft and translucent.
- Stir in the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook until the meat browns thoroughly.
- Mix the rice, dried mint, sweet paprika, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes until everything is well combined.
- Lay a vine leaf flat on a cutting board, vein side up. Place a spoonful of the meat and rice mixture on the lower part of the leaf, fold in the sides, and roll up the leaf, tucking in the ends to secure the filling.
- Repeat with the remaining vine leaves and filling.
- Arrange the stuffed vine leaves seam-side down in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the rolls. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes until the rice and leaves are tender.
- While the vine leaves are cooking, prepare the yogurt sauce. Whisk together the yogurt, flour, and egg yolks until smooth.
- Gradually add the yogurt mixture to the pot with the vine leaves, stirring gently to distribute the sauce evenly.
- Allow everything to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Tips and Tricks
- The vine leaves should be small and tender for the best texture. If you only have larger leaves, cut them in half and remove the tough central vein.
- The yogurt sauce is optional but highly recommended for a creamy, tangy contrast to the hearty vine leaves.
- For those seeking a vegetarian alternative, this recipe can easily be transformed by simply not including the meat, ensuring you can still enjoy the delicate flavors and textures of these exquisite stuffed Bulgarian vine leaves.
You can store the leftover stuffed vine leaves in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Simply reheat gently on the stove before serving.