This dish would be considered an event in a Lebanese household. Served with a bowl of yogurt and some lamb chops it is a meal fit for royalty or your most favorite people.
One word about the greens. In Lebanese cuisine, swiss chard is always used interchangeably with grape leaves; the reason is that grape leaves taste best when fresh; the rest of the year, swiss chard leaves are a wonderful substitute, guaranteeing that you will have a meltingly tender morsel in your mouth.
I used both swiss chard and collard greens. I like the collard greens because their leaves are large and even. Swiss chard from a supermarket is usually filled with holes and not very reliable.
I picked up a leaflet from Wholefoods supermarket the other day listing vegetables by order of nutrient density. Each vegetable gets assigned a nutrient density factor; guess which ones were at the top of the list? (Answer in your comments)
- 6 bunches of greens (swiss chard, collard)
- 1 cup of sushi rice (or Egyptian or Turkish rice-it just needs to be fat and medium-grain)
- 8 ounces of minced meat (lamb or beef)
- Spices: salt (2 t.), black pepper (1/2 t.), allspice (1 t.), cinnamon (1 t.), paprika (1 t.), Aleppo pepper (1 t.), thyme (1 tablespoon)
- 2 Tablespoons of pomegranate molasses (optional)
- 1 onion, chopped very fine (optional)
- olive oil, as needed
- 1/2 cup of lemon juice
- 4 cups of water, with salt dissolved in it (to taste)
- 8 lamb chops
First step: Prepare the lamb chops and soak the rice
- Measure the rice and cover with water and a dash of salt and set it aside.
- Clean the lamb chops by rubbing them with a cut lemon, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Heat the pot, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and pan-fry the lamb chops on both sides until browned. Take off the heat.
Second step: Prepare the stuffing
- Drain the rice. Place in a bowl with the minced meat and all the spices. Add the finely chopped onions (optional). Combine the mixture until it is well mixed. Cover and place in the fridge.
Third step: Prepare the leaves
- After washing the leaves thoroughly, place them in a pot with about 2 inches of salted boiling water. Boil for one minute till the leaves are wilted, turn off the heat and drain in a colander.
- Lay each leaf flat and cut off the stalks and thick veins. Set the talks and veins aside to be made into a salad. Cut the leaves into squares as even as possible, about 4 inches for each side. (They will be uneven, it is OK).
- Remove the stuffing from the fridge, and place one tablespoon on each leaf, rolling the leaf like a cigar. Try to place the stuffing in the middle, as it will expand and you don’t want the rice to ooze out all over the place.
- As soon as each leaf is stuffed, place it in the pot on top of the browned lamb chops, going in a concentric circle if possible.
Fourth step: Cooking the leaves
- Fill a measuring jug with water and a good pinch of salt, stir to dissolve. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice (fresh preferably although I do use a bottled juice in a pinch). If you are using pomegranate molasses, add it now and stir to dissolve. You should have about 3 cups of liquid (enough to almost cover the leaves).
- Place a small plate on top of the leaves (the flip side of the plate) and press slightly. The leaves should be almost covered in liquid. cover the pot, bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover the pot, let is simmer some more (about 15 minutes) to reduce the volume of stock. Cool and taste to see if the leaf is perfectly cooked, if not simmer for a few minutes longer.
- Flip the pot onto a large serving platter, leaving the chops on top. Serve with a bowl of yogurt on the side.
NOTE: You can either place the stalks on top of the leaves and eat them with the stock alongside the leaves or make a salad with them which is what is traditionally done. For a salad recipe, click here.
I would not use turnip greens here as they are too strong (and sour) for my taste.