Cypriot vegetarian stuffed vine leaves (κουπέπια νηστίσιμα)

VERSION FRANÇAISE

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CYPRIOT RECIPES | I wanted to cook … but I wanted to make something Cypriot this time, and had no idea where to find halloumi, real feta cheese or real yoghurt made from sheep’s milk. Well, thanks to the Cypriot cooking class, I found out Brussels has a supermarket specialized in Mediterranean food! Yes, no kidding! The supermarket is named “freshmed” and is located in the rue de l’Escadron in Etterbeek. There, you can find products from Lebanon, Greece, Italy, Morocco and even Cyprus! It is next to the metro station Thieffry, so it is really, very convenient. During my first visit, I found dried mint, sheep yoghurt, halloumi cheese, vine leaves and durum flour (technically the same as what is called “village flour” in Cyprus) … Perfect for making stuffed vine leaves, tzatziki and ravioli! In Cyprus, stuffed vine leaves are called κουπέπια, not δολμάδες like in Greece. They are cooked with tomato sauce and are not served with egg lemon sauce. Today, I am presenting a vegetarian recipe (κουπέπια νηστίσιμα), because there will be lots of opportunities in the near future to cook meat, especially with the holidays approaching! So let’s get started.

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For 45-50 stuffed vine leaves:

  • 45-50 vine leaves – fresh or in a jar
  • 2 small yellow onions
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 250 gr mushrooms
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 150 gr tomato juice
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 et 1/2 cups rice
  • about 5 stems parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, cinnamon

Dice the onions, carrots and mushrooms into a fine brunoise (very small cubes). Chop the parsley, and if needed, crush the dried mint between the palm of your hands. If there are some hard stems remaining in the mint, throw them away. Squeeze half a lemon and cut the tomatoes into small pieces. Blend the tomatoes into a puree.

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Heat some olive oil in a pan and cook, in order, the onions, carrots, and mushrooms. Add the rice, chopped parsley, dried mint, lemon juice and tomato puree. Stir and remove from heat.

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Add salt, pepper, a pinch of cinnamon and mix. The stuffing is ready!

If you are using vine leaves from a jar, start by draining them. If you are using fresh leaves, you first have to blanch them (cook them in boiling water until soft).

Now I am going to tell you a little secret. When I was working at the hotel, I would watch my colleague Xenia cut some potatoes into fine slices and place them on the bottom of the pot before putting the rolled vine leaves on top of them. I asked why she was doing so, but received an explanation in Greek that I pretended I understood. So the reason is still a mystery for me. But when I think about it, there are, to my opinion, two reasons: the potatoes prevent the leaves from sticking to the bottom of the pot, and while cooking they release their starch, which helps making the tomato sauce thicker.

Ok so let’s roll the vine leaves! Put some stuffing in the middle of a leaf, just above the stem. Start by folding the sides, then the bottom, then roll the leaf upwards.

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Place the rolls in the pot without leaving too much space between them. This will prevent the leaves from moving too much while cooking. Make several layers if needed.

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Pour the tomato juice over the vine leaves and add water to cover all the rolls. Put a plate upside down on top of the leaves to prevent them from moving while cooking. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and cover the pot. Let simmer for about 1 hour.

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It’s ready! Easy right? You can serve them with mint yoghurt if you like (except for vegans).

See you soon for some halloumi ravioli!

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