Adding healthy greens to our daily diet can be done in delicious ways. Take these chard rolls for example, they make a wonderful hot meal and also a very tasty cold lunch or appetizer with drinks the next day. There is no need to be rigid in following a recipe for these, you can wing it and slant the culinary leanings how ever you want. While vine, cabbage, chard or beet leaves are typically stuffed with a mix of rice and herbs or rice and minced meat, there are lots of ways to approach it. For mine I used Swiss chard leaves and stuffed them with a mix of pork and veal mince, burghul (cracked wheat), onion, baharat spice mix and currants and cooked them in a tomato sauce. The pork and veal mince is a product of my European heritage, the use of currants and Baharat hails from the Middle East and cooking the rolls in tomato rather than broth is a Turkish style. Using burghul (cracked wheat) in stuffings instead of rice is done anywhere East of Europe. For more diversity I mopped up the juices with an Italian style garlic bread; bread toasted on the BBQ, then rubbed with garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I see this slightly unusual combination as quintessentially Melbourne, where different ethnic cuisines have been appropriated and reinvented with each generation. While we still question what Australian food is, I’d like to think that sometime in the future we will have created an amazing, melded, regional cuisine.
When deciding to cook stuffed leaves I am mostly driven by what’s in my fridge and pantry and approach it by lists of possibilities for each of the key components.
leaf: cabbage (pickled or fresh), vine leaves (pickled or fresh), silverbeet or Swiss chard
meat: minced, beef, pork, veal, lamb or chicken
grain/pulse: rice, burghul, farro, freekeh, quinoa, lentils
vegetables: onion, leeks, shallots, garlic, tomato, capsicum, shredded carrot
herbs: parsley, dill, mint (dried or fresh), coriander, marjoram, oregano, sage
spices: pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, sumac, paprika, baharat, all spice (pimento)
fruit and nuts: lemon zest, dried currants, raisins, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts
cooking liquid: tomato passata, tinned crushed tomatoes, vegetable, chicken or beef stock, Turkish sweet pepper paste mixed with water, water and lemon juice
Makes approximately 15 rolls
- I bunch Swish chard
- 1/4 cup burghul
- 350 g pork and veal mince
- olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 tsp baharat
- handful currants
- zest of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 600 ml tomato passata
- juice of half a lemon
Wash the chard leaves, cut off the stems* and discard them and then blanch the leaves in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, cool for a few minutes and then spread the leaves out on a plate or tray until ready to use.
Place the burghul in a bowl and just cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl and leave to swell (about 5 minutes).
Sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add the currants and stir until they swell with the heat. Add the spice mix and stir over the heat for a minute until aromatic. Remove from the heat and add to the mince along with the burghul, lemon zest and salt. Mix well, kneading a little with your hands.
To fill and roll the leaves: using scissors or a sharp knife remove the main, central stem in the leaf by cutting on either side of the stem in a ‘V” shape. Lay the leaf down flat, slightly overlapping the two cut portions. Shape a desert spoon of the mix into a sausage and place at one end of the leaf. Roll up, folding over the sides as you go to form a neat package. Place each roll seam down in a frypan that can fit all the rolls comfortably. Some leaves will be very large and you can cut them in half crosswise, making two rolls out of them. When the pan is full cover the rolls with the tomato passata mixed with the lemon juice and bring to the simmer on top of the stove. Cover with a lid or place a dinner plate over the top of the rolls and simmer for approximately 45 minutes.
* You can finely chop some of the stems and sauté them with the onion but there will be too much to use all of them.