The Vine in my garden is now thrusting its branches out and every day new leaves are unfurling. So now is the perfect time to pick the leaves for freezing in readiness for cooking koupebia or stuffed vine leaves. The leaves have to be perfect with no blemishes and a good size, so not too small. Once picked, the stalks need to be trimmed off right up to the edge of the leaf, they are blanched in boiling water for a few seconds until they just change colour…whip them out and drain for a little while. Tear off a strip of foil about twice the length of the leaves and place a pile of about 5 leaves on top of each other and another pile right next to it,each leaf flattened out and then roll or fold the foil tightly with the leaves inside, fold over the edges and pop in the freezer to await your pleasure. Or of course you can just make your koupebia then and there.
When the day comes that you decide to make some stuffed vine leaves take those little parcels out of the freezer. The reason I chose to put ten leaves in each parcel is so that I can easily remember how many are in each and ten makes a good meal for me. I usually cook 25 at a time which means I have enough for three servings or they can be used as one of several tasty dishes at a party.
The stuffing recipe is easy. Put together in a bowl:
1lb of pork or a mixture of pork & beef mince
1 onion chopped finely
2 large dessert spoons of finely chopped parsley
Half a cup of rice
A little chopped mint
Pepper and salt
Mix it all well with your hands and then lay your leaves out to be filled. Place a small pile of mixture in the middle of the stalk end of the leaf and fold over the sides to the middle and start to roll up the leaf into a tight parcel. Put 2 dessert spoons of olive oil in a casserole then place your parcels snuggly side by side into it. If you have a lot, make another layer. Grate one large fresh tomato over the top or some diluted tomato paste, squeeze some lemon over with a drizzle of olive oil and make sure there is enough water to just cover the pile of parcels. Place a plate or a saucer, whichever fits your pan, up side down over the parcels to keep them together and cover the pan with a lid. Cook on a low heat for about an hour making sure there is enough liquid whilst they are cooking.
These taste even nicer the second day. Enjoy.
This is one of the many traditional Cypriot recipes featured in my book Androula’s Kitchen.Watch this space for when it will be on sale.