Something totally new to us. Even when we've seen them on the menu we've never felt overly interested in giving them a try and certainly no thought to try cook with them. Thank you Daring Kitchen for gently forcing us to give them a go.
For us they're easy enough to find, actually too easy. We assumed they'd be a little difficult to find so we started at our local Market that has helped us out a couple of times with non-standard (We should emphasize non-standard for us!) items more commonly used in International Dishes. Without too much effort we found two different sized jars. When we headed over to the 'regular' Store for everything else we found them again quite easily.
It's a shame the leaves don't keep the vibrant green they have while on the vines.
Grape Leaves Stuffed with Ground Meat and Rice, with Apricot Tamarind Sauce
Step 1 - get the leaves out of the jar. Man do they cram a lot of leaves in on jar? We didn't completely believe the count indicated on the jar and almost got the larger jar - turns out the count is more or less right.
Step 2 - continue getting the leaves out of the jar...
Preparation of the filling is a straightforward enough process - everyone into the pool, basically.
Rolling the leaves is not hard, but it is time consuming when you're inexperienced. We definitely improved as we progressed, but we're both still along way from being expert grape leave rollers. No significant explosions, but a few pine nuts and random pieces of ground meat somehow managed to escape during the cooking part.
We had to trust the recipe's cooking time because we had no idea what visible changes we could expect. As it turned out, nothing really changed. We did get up and do the scooping the liquid over the top part a couple of times but we're not really sure that contributed much, if at all.
We really had no idea what to expect because there's not a lot to taste along the way - some nice smells as the cinnamon and allspice are introduced to everyone else, which only got stronger (pleasantly) through the house as the cooking process progressed.
We have no reason to doubt that the Tamarind Sauce adds to the dish, but on it's own we're not sure what to make of it and have no idea how it might work with anything else we just happen to be making - we'll have to do some research on that front.
It's a tough final product. It tasted fine. Actually, better than fine. But, it took a long time to put together - we started the soaking the rice part just after 6pm and with no goofing around (well, comparatively...) we didn't sit down with our fancy new anniversary silver until 9pm was much closer than 8.
Being our Saturday night dinner we figured we should open a bottle of something. Based on the aromas we searched for red, not too heavy, fruitier more than not. Our Cellar provided us with a Wine Guerilla Zinfandel (2008) which worked out just fine.
Recipes & Destructions Instructions
We have said that the point of playing this game is to try new stuff, but after our first batch we just didn't think we could eat a version that was cold. If the process was a little quicker, perhaps we'd have given it a whirl?
A combination of the texture of the leaves (just the leaves - we liked the filling so much we used the leftovers in a sandwich the next day) and the color lessened the enjoyment that so many other people seem to get from these dishes.
We're not sorry we tried this but we don't see any use for it in our future. It's a too slow process to be whipping up after work even if we could get past the texture / color thing, and it's not something we'd put at the top of the list of things we might cook for friends.