Stuffed Vine Leaves on a Bed of Lamb Chops
8 thin lamb chops (about 600g/1lb 5oz total weight), most of the fatty bits trimmed
1 cinnamon stick
200g (7oz) medium-sized fresh or preserved vine leaves
Stock from cooking the lamb chops
Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
For the stuffing
125g (4 1/2 oz) short-grain white rice (bomba, Calaspara or Egyptian), rinsed under cold water and drained
200g (7ox) freshly minced lean lamb, from the shoulder or neck (either ask your butcher to mince the lamb or do it yourself using the fine attachment on a meat grinder)
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice or Lebanese seven-spice mixture
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
Put the lamb chops in a saucepan, cover with water and place over a medium heat. As the water is about to boil, skim away any scum that rises to the surface, then add a little salt, and the cinnamon. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat and let the stock bubble gently for 15 minutes. Lift the chops out onto a plate, strain and reserve the stock for later.
Meanwhile, make the stuffing. Place the rice in a mixing bowl, add the minced meat and water and season with the spices and a little salt. Mix with your hands to blend well. Pinch off a little mixture and sear in a hot pan to taste, then adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Choose a pan with straight sides and large enough to arrange the lamb chops in a tight even layer on the bottom. Put the vine leaves (fresh or preserved) in a colander and run boiling water over are using preserved leaves, rinse these beforehand in cold water, at least a couple of times, in order to get rid of some of the briny taste.
|‘Cake’ of cooked stuffed vine leaves topped with juicy lamb chops|
Who is it for?
The recipes are mostly fairly easy to make, there are some unusual ingredients however, my feeling is that this is a book for a more confident cook, willing to take a few risks. It’s also a book for people who like to ‘read’ cookbooks, not just cook from them, as each chapter has several pages of autobiographical introduction and every recipe is also introduced with interesting information and stories.
The book is packed with 150 recipes and enough stories to keep you entertained as well as well fed. Instructions are detailed, as you will have gathered from the recipe above, are despite the complexity of the recipe I chose, remarkably easy to follow. The Glossary is excellent and there is also a Bibliography, useful if you want to further your middle eastern cookery skills.
The chapter headings are not terribly helpful for finding particular types of recipe, you really have to use the index, but the structure has a charm of it’s own which I enjoyed.
I’m sure you have probably gathered that I enjoyed reading this book and cooking from it too. If you would like to know how to cook authentic Middle Eastern food, then this book should certainly have a place on your book shelf.
Recipes and memories from the Middle East
Publisher – Harper Collins
I was provided with a copy of Levant by Harper Collins to review, I was not paid for his review and all opinions are my own.