Through the grape vine

 

Whats with the puns? I can`t shake it! I think it`s to do with Evening standard Overexposure. Hope I`ll get it out of my system soon, and these pages wo`nt be so painful to read anymore.

The phrase `Overexposure` also comes to mind looking at this picture. I still like it though.  

Everybody tried stuffed vine leaves. Or so they think. I thought I had stuffed vine leaves.In  fact, I even thought I make quite good vine leaves. I learned of my mistake at a food fare in the basement of a shopping mall in Tel Aviv. This guy had a stall there, pots  full of bubbling broths, dumplings and stews, all looking and smelling gorgeous. His mother and Father cooked it all, he boasted,  hand-made and fresh Iraqi food. I saw a Claudia Roden quote somewhere, saying that Persian cuisine is the last undiscovered secret in middle eastern cooking. No disrespect to that great lady, but I think she forgot their neighbours; In Israel, with its huge community of Iraqi jews, their cooking is very highly regarded.

I bought some kibe from this guy, and he was upselling hard. I wasn`t having it, so he gave me these vine leaves to try, and said `you havent tried vine leaves till you tried these` and I had to reluctantly admit, the pushy little man was right, I never had anything even remotely similar; warm and slightly sticky rice, bursting with minty freshness, lemony but not sour, wrapped in soft silky leaves…of course I bought as many as I could, trying to remember every bite so I can recreate them.

And indeed I did – took a lot of trial and error, but I got there finally – I am using risotto rice, for that sticky texture of the grains, cook it slightly with equal amount of chopped onion to rice, season with turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne and ridiculous amounts of mint, fresh and dried. 

After the leaves are rolled they are cooked in lemon juice and olive oil with  leeks and grapes for a couple of hours.

The results are so good I don`t think there is a limit to how many of them I can eat. If they weren’t so time-consuming  to make, I would have it every day, and so would my wife, but these are special affair treats, at least untill the restaurant opens, which seems very near now, I think I am going to close the deal on the location today.

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