Spring or Summer Green Rice Rolls
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This makes 8 to serve 2-3 as a main course…Around the eastern Mediterranean there are many versions of stuffed leaves, often using vine leaves. Any good-sized cabbage leaf can be used; try Savoy or January King in winter.

These rolls have crunch, sweetness and a fresh herb flavour. The simmering finishes off the rice; as it expands more it plumps up the rolls, and the leaves get extra flavour from the lemony oil coating.

If you’re short of time though, there’s no reason why you can’t just boil the leaves, cook the rice fully then roll them up and serve immediately, drizzled with a lemon and olive oil dressing. If the odd roll does split, you can patch it back together. Serve at room temperature as a main course with salads, or on a platter to share as a starter.

100g long-grain brown rice

1 tbsp sunflower or light olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely diced

½ tsp dried mint

¼ tsp allspice

8 large spring or summer green leaves (a good side plate sized, about 15cm in diameter), plus a handful of smaller leaves

50g pine nuts, gently toasted in a dry frying pan until golden

6 pitted dates, chopped

4 tbsp finely chopped parsley

2 tbsp finely chopped

mint leaves

1 lemon

good olive oil

salt and pepper

Rinse the rice in a sieve under cold water. Transfer to a pan, cover with water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cook for 12 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently for 10 minutes to soften without colouring. Add the dried mint and allspice to the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the whole green leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes.

Drain and refresh under cold water then leave to drain. Drain the rice and run under cold water to cool it slightly. Remove the onion from the heat and add the rice, pine nuts, dates, parsley, fresh mint, salt and pepper to season and 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest (about ½ a small lemon).

Lay a green leaf out on your work surface. Chop out the central tough rib in a thin, reverse ‘v’ shape. Bring one flap of the cut leaf over the other to fill the gap. Spoon a dessertspoon of the rice mixture across the middle of the leaf, leaving a good gap either side. Fold the sides of the leaf in, then roll up to seal it, making a fat cigar/cylinder shape.

Lay the smaller leaves in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan, one in which the rolls will fit snugly. Carefully wedge all the rice rolls in, add 200ml of water, the juice from the lemon and a good glug of olive oil. You want to just cover the rolls, so add a splash more water if need be. Put an upturned plate on top, weigh it down (we use a big, clean pebble!), then simmer on the lowest heat possible, no bubbles, or the rolls risk splitting, for 45 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan, then carefully remove them.

Variations

* Use whole blanched almonds, toasted then chopped, in place of the pine nuts, or try sunflower seeds.

* A little chopped dill adds a different, fresh flavour if you have any, with or instead of the parsley and mint.

With thanks for this fantastc vegan recipe to www.riverford.co.uk/recipes

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