Vine leaves stuffed with Persian jeweled rice

Vine leaves stuffed with Persian Jeweled rice 
This recipe makes a lot of vine leaves and is perfect for a party. Persian jeweled rice is a pilaf made with lots of jewel coloured ingredients like rose petals and pistachios. Some of these ingrediant are hard to find. I found the dried rose petals in a Greek shop on Seven Sisters but have seen them in other shops specialising in middle eastern food. I got the sour cherries in Waitrose but if you cant find them dried cranberries would make a fine substitute. If you cant get either just add more dates.

(Recipe by Sarah Wasserman)
Makes about 40 Vine leaves

For the Vine leaves:
1 pack of vine leaves - (usually sold in vacuum packs in brine. Follow the instruction on the pack but generally you need to wash them then boil water for 5 minutes then drain and rinse again)
50g sour cherries
50g dates 
100g pistachios
1 red onion (finely chopped)
4 Tbsp dried rose petals
1Tsp cinnamon
1Tsp ground cumin
1/2 Tsp sumac
400g long grain rice (washed)
1/2 bunch Flat Parsley (chopped)
Juice of half a lemon

To Serve:
2 Tbsp chopped Flat parsley
Seeds of 2 Pomegranates

To make the Vine Leaves:
1) Saute the onion in olive oil till transparent.
2) Roughly chop the cherries, dates, pistachios and flat parsley.
3) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Crunch up the rose petals in your hands as you add them.

4) Spread out the vine leaves and cut out any hard stems from the bottom. Add one tablespoon or so of mix and fold the sides over and roll. Pack them tightly into a ovenproof dish as you go along (I use a Pyrex dish which is 35x25 cm and they always fit perfectly. It quite handy to be able to see through too). I'm not going to pretend this isn't a bit tedious. The best thing to do is rope in a few people or just have the radio on while you do it. I did all 40 in 20 minutes so its not all that bad.


5) Cover in water, a splash or three of olive oil, juice of half a lemon and then parchment paper. Then get a smaller ovenproof dish and put it on top to keep them from swimming about.

6) Bake for one hour at 180c adding water ever so often if its all evaporated. When you take them out just check if the rice is cooked, if not add  more water and return to the oven. The cooking time does vary a little depending on the rice.

6) Serve scattered with chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds and juice. Serve with something to dip them in, a bit of yogurt will do or, even better, some smokey babaganoush. I know in Britain a lot of us are used to having vine leaves freezing cold from the fridge but I think they are at their best when still slightly warm having been made that day or at least at room temperature as the rice does harden in the fridge. If you make them in advance, take them out of the fridge in advance and splash a bit more warm water over them to take the chill off.

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