Bulgur yalanji, Vegan stuffed vine leaves.
In the Levant, vegan stuffed vine leaves are called yalanji. This word comes from the Turkish Dolma Yalanji. Dolma in Turkish means stuffed and yalanji means false because these leaves are not stuffed with meat but rather vegetables. Almost everything can be stuffed with a vegetarian or meat grain filling from cored zucchini, cored aubergine, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes to rolled stuffed cabbage, Swiss chard, cauliflower leaves and vine leaves, chicken and whole lambs; you name it, we stuff it.
Levantines always make yalanji as a side dish rather than the main one, mainly when they have feasts to honour guests. I am inclined to believe that it has become an essential festive side dish rather than the main one simply because it is not stuffed with meat. For me, this dish is comfort food that is not really bound by an occasion or festivity. This makes an ideal dish for the Eid table spread as it is straightforward to make though it does take some time with the rolling if you are not skilled. It can be prepared a day ahead then cooked on the day.
The traditional yalanji calls for rice, but I have opted to use bulgur as I prefer using whole grain.
Feel free to experiment with any whole grain such as quinoa.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 2 hours
For the filling:
1 1/4 cups coarse bulgur
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
5 cloves chopped garlic
3/4 cup chopped peppers
1 1/2 chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried mint flakes
1 tablespoon Himalayan salt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon coffee, ground
1 cup parsley, chopped
800 g jar vine leaves
2 onions for stuffing
For the stock:
1.5 litres water
Juice of 1 ½ to 2 lemons
1 to 1 ½ tablespoon Himalayan salt
• Soak the bulgur for 10 minutes in cold water and wash.
• Saute the chopped onions, garlic with olive oil in a pan for 1 minute.
• When the garlic starts to turn golden, add the washed bulgur and sauté for 2 minutes.
• Add the chopped peppers, tomatoes, molasses, coffee, mint, salt and black pepper and sauté for a further 2 minutes.
• Remove from the fire and add the parsley, mix and leave aside to cool. Adjust the salt.
For the stuffed vine leaves:
• Remove the grape leaves from the jar and cut the stems off if any are left intact.
• Rinse the leaves under hot water or bring a pot of water to a boil and in batches drop the vine leaves for 10 seconds and remove to a colander. This is to remove the flavour of the brine. Repeat until all are done. Set aside to cool.
• Place the grape leaf on the worktop with the shiny side down and the stem nearer to you.
• Add a spoonful of the filling and spread it horizontally and fold the base of the leaf over the filling tucking it in with your fingers.
• Fold the right side of the leaf inwards towards the right side of the filling and do the same to the left and roll once, the shape should resemble an envelope.
• Continue rolling, making sure the filling is firmly tucked and held inside. Repeat the process until all is finished. Place in the fridge until you are ready for assembling the dish. Keep the torn leaves as they will be used for the bottom of the pot.
For the stuffed onion:
• Peel the onions then cut on one side until you reach the centre.
• Place in a pot on medium heat and let it boil for about 5 minutes. Remove and peel the onion until you reach the harder core, then return back to the pot and cook further. Keep repeating the process until it is finished.
• Hold a layer of the cooked onion in the palm for the hand, place a spoonful of filling and roll it and it will take an oval shape.
• At the very bottom of the pot lay the torn leaves (this is to protect the dish in case it scorches).
• Add a layer of the rolled yalanji then stack the vine leaves in a circular mode creating circular layers with a void in the middle to place the stuffed onions and or Aubergine and zucchini.
• Place a heavy cooking stone on top as seen in the video. You can use a flat plate that covers the surface and top it with a bowl of water or anything heavy. This is to hold the stuffed leaves in place and stop them from unfolding.
• Add 2 litres of water, salt and the lemon juice, and make sure the seasoning is correct; otherwise, it will take the salt from the rice stuffing. Cook on medium heatcovered for 30 to 40 minutes.
• Drain the stock in a glass bowl.
• Place a tray over the pot as seen in the picture and turn it upside down. Leave it to settle for five minutes then lift the pan. Serve with the stock and plain yoghurt.
• The original yalanji calls for rice. Follow instructions for washing it as in stuffed warak inab.
• You can stuff baby vegetables such as peppers, zucchini and aubergine.
• You can experiment using quinoa as well.
Per Serving: 1428 Calories; 58g Fat (34.8% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 215g Carbohydrate; 45g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 6507mg Sodium.