Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Stuffed Vine Leaves (Veggie)

Bulgarian stuffed vine leaves, or Lozovi Sarmi, are a delightful and traditional dish featuring a harmonious blend of rice, onions, and herbs, all carefully wrapped in tender grape leaves for a mouthwatering appetizer or side.

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Bulgarian veggie stuffed vine leaves, known as Lozovi Sarmi, are a traditional and flavorful dish that consists of a savory mixture of rice, onions, and herbs wrapped in tender grape leaves. These delicious rolls are typically served as an appetizer or side dish and can be enjoyed either warm or at room temperature.

Preparation time: Approximately 1 hour, plus 1 hour cooking time

Ingredients (for four people)

  • 40 grape leaves, fresh or jarred (approximately 300g)
  • 200g uncooked round white rice
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped (approximately 200g)
  • 50g sunflower or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 500ml water or vegetable broth for cooking

Method to prepare the veggie stuffed vine leaves

  1. If using fresh grape leaves, blanch them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. If using jarred grape leaves, rinse them thoroughly under cold water to remove any brine. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the sunflower oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the rice to the saucepan, stirring well to combine with the onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the rice is slightly toasted.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chopped parsley, dill, mint, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.
  5. To assemble the stuffed vine leaves, lay a grape leaf on a clean, flat surface with the shiny side down and the stem facing you. Place a heaping teaspoon of the rice mixture in the center of the leaf, near the stem.
  6. Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling, then fold in the sides and roll the leaf away from you to form a small, tight parcel. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
  7. Arrange the stuffed vine leaves seam-side down in a large, shallow saucepan or Dutch oven, placing them close together in a single layer. If needed, create a second layer on top of the first.
  8. Pour the water or vegetable broth over the stuffed vine leaves, ensuring they are covered. Place a heatproof plate on top of the rolls to keep them in place during cooking.
  9. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 1 hour or until the rice is cooked and the grape leaves are tender.
  10. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the stuffed vine leaves to cool slightly before serving.

Tips and Tricks

  • When choosing grape leaves, opt for younger leaves as they are more tender and have a milder flavor. Younger leaves are usually brighter in color.
  • You can also add minced meat (such as beef or lamb) to the rice mixture for a heartier version of this dish.
  • Be careful not to overcook the rice during the initial sauté, as it will continue to cook inside the grape leaves.
  • If you cannot find grape leaves, substitute them with Swiss chard or cabbage leaves, blanching them first to soften.
  • For those who prefer more protein-rich stuffed vine leaves, this recipe can effortlessly be adapted by incorporating a blend of your preferred ground meat into the mix.

Storage suggestions

Bulgarian veggie stuffed vine leaves can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, place the rolls in a saucepan with a splash of water or broth, cover, and gently heat on low until warmed through. Alternatively, you can enjoy them at room temperature. Freezing is not recommended for this dish, as the rice filling and grape leaves may become overly soft and lose their texture when thawed and reheated.

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