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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lebanese Rolled Grape Leaves (Warak inib mishwee)

These are rolled grape leaves with ground lamb, and are very different from the Greek style of rolled grape leaves. They are served warm, not cold, although I eat them cold as well and are served with plain whole milk yogurt, (vanilla flavor is delicious with them, too). We used to pick our own grape leaves because you can only use the ones that grow in the wild.
Do not ever, ever use the ones that grapes are grown from. Those are tough bad boys and they will taste horrible! If you don't want to pick them, most supermarkets now sell them packed into jars. There are about 50 in a jar, so I buy 7 for my family. Just kidding. But they would eat them if I did.
If you buy them in jars, soak and rinse them very, very well in cold water several times to get the salt brine off of them.

50 grape leaves
1 tsp. salt
Juice of 3 lemons (save the lemon halves)
1 cup Uncle Ben's Rice...uncooked and OUB! (only Uncle Ben's)
1 pound ground lamb about 80% lean
Lebanese pepper ( as you all know by now, you can use ground Jamaican allspice)

If you are using fresh grape leaves, soak them in hot water for about 15 minutes to make them soft. If you are using jarred, follow instructions above to prep them. Rinse and drain thoroughly, then snip the stems off. Or have the kids do it.

In the bottom of a large saucepan, place 3 or 4 grape leaves to cover the bottom of the pan. My mother recently began to use sliced potatoes in the bottom of the pan to line it, so you can do either one. You can also use lamb bones. Why do this step? So the bottom layer of leaves won't burn.

Mix together the lamb, rice, salt and pepper and mix with your clean hands until everything is evenly distributed.

Lay a leaf out flat on a board. Add an oblong piece of the lamb mixture, like in the picture. Then turn the sides of the leaf in over the filling.
Turn the bottom up over the filling and tightly, but not too tightly, roll the leaf toward the top:

OK. Now, you want to leave the tip of the leaf at the bottom of the roll so it does not unwrap. That is how you place it in the pot or saucepan. With the tip of the leaf down. Don't roll them too loosely, they will unravel as they cook and you would have grape leaf and lamb stew. Line them up in the pan and alternate the direction of each layer.

Sprinkle with salt when you have all the leaves rolled and in the pan. Press an inverted dish over the top of them. Yes, make it on the heavier side. Helps keep them in place. Add water to cover dish. Add the lemon juice and the halves of lemons you squeezed. Cook these on medium-low heat for 35 minutes. Add more lemon juice, if desired. I desire this, but I absolutely love lemon juice.
Place in a serving dish, add yogurt on the side, and watch them disappear! Personally, I could live on these and tabouleh for every meal for the rest of my life. And don't try to save any leftover for lunch the next day. They won't be there.


  1. Great recipe, glad I found this!

  2. Purists never use Uncle Ben's which is basically parboiled rice. It's better to presoak regular long grain white rice rice for 30 minutes. Drain it well and then mix it with the ground lamb. Also, it's best to grind your own lamb from a boneless leg. If you don't have a grinder you can use the food processor if you're careful not to process it into mush.

  3. My family used Uncle Ben's for years and we still use it.

  4. My mom taught me how to make grape leaves as a child. Every recipe I have found has been so opposite of the way I'm used to making them . Then I saw this one. I'm so happy to see a real recipe.

  5. My mom taught me how to make grape leaves as a child. Every recipe I have found has been so opposite of the way I'm used to making them . Then I saw this one. I'm so happy to see a real recipe.

  6. I have heard of using beef or chicken broth instead of the water. True or not.

    1. You can use either. I never have, but who is to say what is right or wrong? That's the fun of cooking.

  7. My family always put garlic and mint between the layers. Also, we only use ground beef since ground lamb was so hard to find in our small town.

  8. Yes, and if I can't find American lamb, I will use beef, too.

  9. My family too always put mint and garlic between layer as well as lemon juice and vegetable broth instead of water. Also, there is a roller you can buy if you don't want to hand roll.

    1. Yes, have you tried the roller? I was wondering if it works well.