Koupepia (stuffed vine leaves)

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Koupepia is the Cypriot name for stuffed vine leaves or what the Greeks call "dolmades". My version is a variation on the traditional recipe, using apricots instead of raisins. Fun to make, very popular amongst my friends!

This recipe makes about 1 plateful. You could easily double all the ingredients to make more. There should be enough leaves in 1 single jar to wrap up twice as much stuffing as this recipe yields.
1 large onion, diced finely
1 handful pine nuts, raw/unroasted
125 g dried apricots
200 g feta cheese, cut in small cubes
2 tsp sugar
1 lemon (juice)
2 teacups water
1 teacup uncooked longgrain rice
2 tbs fresh mint
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dry parsley
1 jar vine leaves
salt and pepper (to taste)
1. Finely dice the dried apricots, then let them soak in a small amount (2 tbs or so) of warm water for about 10 minutes, while you do the following steps.
2. Roast the pine nuts in a splash of oil in a frying pan until they are just golden brown. Add the nuts to a large bowl in which to later combine the other ingredients.
3. In the same frying pan as before, add a generous slug of oil, the cinnamon, and the onions and salt to taste (remember salty cheese will be added later). Cook gently until soft.
4. Add the onions to the bowl with the pine nuts, along with the sugar, diced apricots, chopped mint, parsley, lemon juice, feta cheese and black pepper. Mix it all thoroughly.
5. This is your last opportunity to taste the mixture before adding the uncooked (therefore inedible) rice. Add salt or pepper to taste. Then add the rice and mix thoroughly again.
6. Rinse your vine leaves. Gently lay each leaf out flat, the underside of the leaf facing towards you, and spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons (depending on the size of each leaf) of the filling onto the area at the base of the stem. Fold in the left and right flaps of the leaves and then roll the leaf up to make short, fat cigars. Don't roll too tightly as the rice in the stuffing will expand when cooked.
7. Place each cigar side by side (not too tightly packed but leaving no gaps) in a saucepan or tagine-bottom. I used the latter. Pour over the 2 teacups of water so that the cigars are just barely submerged, then place a weighty, ovenproof plate directly on top of the cigars. This helps them to not unravel in the jostling of the simmering water, and helps to cook them evenly by catching the water and the heat.
8. Place the tagine/saucepan on the hob, first briefly on a high heat to get the water simmering, and then for 45 to 60 minutes on a low heat. On a low heat, the water should be just used up after the 60 minutes, but keep an eye on the water level so as not to let burn your lovingly created koupepia. Immediately transfer the koupepia to another plate so that they don't continue cooking and dry up.
9. Serve warm or cold, as snacks or as a component of a meal or mezze.

Jonathan Beaton

Member since Nov 2009

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