In the warm, welcoming kitchen of my mother-in-law, where the air is perpetually filled with the comforting hum of familial conversation and the scent of timeless recipes coming to life, I was introduced to the cherished tradition of making Delicious Palestinian-style stuffed Vine Leaves and Courgettes. It was one of the first dishes I learned to make from my Mother-in-law.
This dish holds a special place in my heart, serving as a poignant reminder of my early days in the kitchen when I first started to learn Palestinian dishes from my mother-in-law. Under her patient and watchful eye, I learned to delicately wrap the vine leaves around the savoury mixture of minced lamb and spices and gently fill the fresh courgettes, each one becoming a promise of the delightful meal to come.
The stuffed vine leaves and courgettes are then lovingly layered on a bed of tomatoes and lamb ribs and cooked until the rice grains are plump. A final touch of freshness is added as we squeeze some lemon juice over the vine leaves and courgettes. To complete this culinary masterpiece, we serve it with a bowl of plain whole yoghurt for dipping.
This wonderful dish has not only been a nostalgic favourite of my husband since his childhood days but has now also become my son Adam’s most cherished meal. Join me as we recreate this treasured family recipe together, crafting a dish that not only satisfies the palate but also warms the heart. It embodies the spirit of love and tradition that has been passed down through the generations and continues to bring our family together around the joys of the table.
Basic ingredients for Stuffed Vine Leaves and Courgettes
Vine Leaves: Used for their tender and pliable texture, vine leaves are the perfect wrapper for the aromatic stuffing, absorbing the flavours and adding a subtle, earthy note.
Courgettes: These add a fresh, vegetal touch to the dish, their delicate flavour complementing the robust stuffing.
Minced Lamb: Brings richness and depth, offering a hearty, meaty element that’s satisfying and flavorful.
Rice: Adds texture and body, soaking in the surrounding flavours to become a fragrant, tasty component.
Spices: The blend of spices infuses the dish with warmth and complexity, elevating the flavours to an exquisite level.
- Substitute vine leaves with cabbage or kale leaves.
- Replace courgettes with bell peppers or tomatoes.
- Use beef or turkey as an alternative to lamb.
Preparation Tips for Stuffed Vine Leaves and Courgettes
- Ensure the vine leaves are rinsed thoroughly if preserved in brine to remove excess salt.
- Soak the rice for half an hour mixing it with the spices for the stuffing to ensure it cooks through during the final preparation.
- Loose roll the mixture in the vine leaves leaving enough space for the rice to expand when it is cooked.
- Loosely stuff the courgetti three-quarters full leaving enough space for the rice to expand when it is cooked.
- Brown the lamb before combining with other stuffing ingredients for added flavor.
Serving Tips for Stuffed Vine Leaves and Courgettes
- Enhance the flavours with a generous drizzle of lemon juice just before serving.
- Accompany the dish with a side of plain whole yoghurt for a creamy, cool contrast.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- For longer storage, freeze the cooked stuffed vine leaves and courgettes in a single layer on a tray before transferring them to a freezer-safe container. Defrost in the refrigerator and reheat gently to preserve texture and flavour.
Stuffed Vine Leaves and Courgettes
- 4 cups calrose rice
- 1 jar vine leaves, preserved in brine
- 16 small-sized courgettes
- 12 lamb ribs
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 300 g lamb cubes, finely chopped
- 5 tsp salt
- 2 tsp black pepper powder
- 2 tbsp 7 spice powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 2 tsp white pepper powder
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- Soak the rice in water for at least half an hour. Rinse the rice until the colour of the water changes from a milky white colour to a clear colour. Drain rice and keep to the side.
- Rinse the vine leaves under cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water to remove the excess salt, leave for 10 minutes. Rinse the leaves once more, then drain and keep to the side.
- Wash the courgettes, cut the stem and core the centre of the vegetable. You need to be very careful not to break the courgettes since we will be stuffing them.
- Roughly mince the lamb cubes in a food processor for a couple of minutes. I intentionally use a food processor so that the meat is not finely minced, this way you can taste the flavour of the meat.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the rice, minced lamb, salt, black pepper powder, 7-spice powder, cinnamon powder, white pepper powder and vegetable oil.
- To stuff the vine leaves, lay each leaf on a flat surface. Position the smooth side down, the stem side up and carefully cut the excess stem. Place about 1–2teaspoons of stuffing (depending on size) in the centre along the base of the leaf. Fold in both sides, then roll up tightly to enclose filling. Each stuffed vine leaves should look like a mini cigar.
- To stuff the courgettes, add the stuffing ¾-full leaving enough space for the rice to expand when it is cooked.
- In a large-sized heavy bottom pot, place a layer of tomatoes. Season the lamb ribs with black pepper powder and then layer them over the tomatoes. Layer the rolled stuffed vines over the lamb ribs, followed by the stuffed courgettes.Cover the vegetables with a small plate and about 5 cups of water; on high heat bring the liquid to a boil, cover, reduce heat and leave to simmer for about 45–60 minutes.
- Once the stuffed vine leaves and courgettes have cooked, squeeze the lemon juice over the vegetables and turn of the fire. Allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes, drain any excess liquid from the pot into a cup and flip the dish in a platter large than the mouth of the pot. Serve with a side of delicious yogurt.