Heba Saleh, our friend from MidEATS, is an Egyptian-American who spent her childhood in Bahrain and Egypt, and moved to the States as a teenager. The memory of freshly baked pita bread from the corner furn (‘bakery’) next to her grandparents’ house in Heliopolis has been forever etched in her mind. Her love for food has only grown over the years, and she has cooked many Middle Eastern specialties. Heba’s food philosophy is simple: she believes food should be eaten in its most natural and wholesome state.
Heba fills us in on some of the history of Ghee, a staple in Egyptian cooking, as well as many other cuisines, and shares her knowledge on it’s health benefits, it’s history in Egyptian cooking, and it’s uses today. Read her full blog post here.
Heba, from MidEATS, shows us how to make Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice and Ground Beef with Grass-fed Organic Ghee.
one 1-lb. jar of brine-preserved Grape (vine) Leaves
2 cups Egyptian Rice (sushi rice is a great substitute because it has similar properties – short, thick and gets a bit sticky when it’s cooked)
1 lb. organic, grass-fed Ground Beef
2 cups homemade Chicken or Beef stock (you may use water if you’re out of stock, but the taste won’t be nearly as rich)
2 yellow Onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Grass-fed Organic Ghee
juice of half a Lemon
unrefined mineral salt and freshly ground black pepper
Open the jar of grape leaves, unroll the bunch of leaves, and thoroughly rinse under running water to remove most of the packaging liquid. Place on a strainer to drain.
For the filling: In a bowl, add 2 cups of uncooked rice, 1 lb. of organic ground beef, 2 thinly-diced onions, 2 tablespoons of ghee, salt and pepper, and mix well using a large fork to make sure all ingredients are well integrated.
On a large plate or cutting board, take one grape leaf and place on it about 1 teaspoon of the filling, as shown below:
Then, shape the filling into a cylinder and fold the bottom two sides of the grape leave up as shown:
Fold the right and left sides of the grape leave towards the middle, overlapping one side over the other and pulling in a bit to make sure it’s tightly folded in:
Start rolling the grape leaf upward tightly to close it off:
And there you have it – a nicely wrapped grape leaf…
As you’re wrapping, watch for torn leaves that are unsuitable for stuffing and place them in the bottom of the pot that you will be using to cook the grape leaves.
When you have stuffed and wrapped all the grape leaves, pile them in a circle in the pot:
Pour 2-3 cups of homemade chicken or meat broth to cover at least three-fourth of the pile of grape leaves in the pot. You can also mix the chicken/meat broth with water in whatever proportion to dilute for a lighter version of the dish, and add 2-3 cups of the diluted mix, but you will likely notice a slight difference in taste.
Cover the grape leaves with a heat-proof dish that fits into the pot to keep the leaves from unraveling while cooking. Leave on medium-high heat for a few minutes until the broth starts to boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 35-40 minutes until the meat and rice are fully cooked.
Squeeze the juice of one lemon on top and enjoy either hot or cold, alongside tzatziki yogurt sauce or tarbiya if you like.
3-4 White Eggplants per person (for 4 people, we stuffed 12)
1 lb. organic, grass-fed Ground Beef
½ cup organic Egyptian Rice (other varieties, like Basmati, would probably work)
1 tablespoon Grass-fed Organic Ghee
1 cup filtered Water
1 can/small glass jar of organic Tomato Paste
1 large Onion, chopped
unrefined mineral salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Core eggplant. On a smooth surface, use the palm of your hand to gently roll the eggplant to soften the core and make it easier to remove the pulp. Then, hold the eggplant securely in the palm of your hand, use a knife to remove the stem, and use a corer to remove the pulp – but be careful not to pierce the skin of the eggplant! It is safe to keep about an inch or two-thirds of an inch uncored at the bottom, and discard the extracted pulp.
Add cored eggplants to cold water. Immerse cored eggplants in cold water immediately after coring in order to prevent them from oxidizing and turning brown.
Prepare stuffing. Chop one large onion. In a large pot add ground beef, uncooked rice, two-thirds of can of tomato paste, organic ghee, chopped onion, and salt and pepper seasoning. Mix well (feel free to use your hands!).
Fill eggplants. Add the mixture to each eggplant, using your index finger to push each piece in. Leave about a third of an inch of the front of each eggplant unfilled because the mixture expands as it cooks. Make a small incision (a 1 cm slice) on the side of each eggplant, to make sure the moisture from the sauce is absorbed and it cooks all the way through. But be careful not to make a big or wide cut that can cause the eggplant to fall apart!
Add sauce and cook. Place eggplants in a large pot. Mix remaining tomato paste with water and add to the pot, making sure that the sauce covers most of the eggplants. Cover and cook on medium heat for 30-40 minutes. Before removing from heat, try a bite to check if the stuffing has cooked all the way through.
Stuffed white eggplants are both filling and tasty. They make wonderful side dishes at a dinner party as well. The coring and stuffing process is a bit time-consuming, but the recipe itself is super simple and the ingredients are easy to find. The end result is definitely worth the 45 minutes you spend coring and stuffing each aubergine! Yes – I had to use the fancy eggplant word one last time. Bon apetit!
For stuffing, pick uniform-looking eggplants of similar size.
You have to use a vegetable corer – any other utensil is unusable for this endeavor. Trust me – I’ve tried.
Cold water preserves the freshness of the eggplants temporarily while you core the whole bunch.
Make sure to leave a little bit of room at the tip of each eggplant so it doesn’t explode or overflow while cooking.
Serve with some sauce drizzled on top for added moisture and flavor!