Rice with vine leaves, and a pickled lemon relish

Yesterday I noticed that the wind had blown one of the branches off our table grape vine.  It needed pruning anyway, but I didn’t want to waste the fresh leaves.  The obvious use for them would be dolmas – stuffed vine leaves – but I didn’t really have time to make them, so I used them to make a layered rice dish.

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I cooked some sliced onion in olive oil until it was soft – this takes at least ten minutes and preferably longer, and a sprinkle of salt helps bring out the sweetness in the onion.  For the last few minutes I added a couple of chopped cloves of garlic and a teaspoonful of ground piment d’Espelette (paprika).  I removed them from the pan, added a little more olive oil then began to layer the vine leaves and rice. A layer of leaves, half a cup of uncooked rice, half the onions, half a teaspoon of salt, half a chopped, peeled tomato, some chopped oregano and a tablespoonful of raisins. Then a layer of leaves followed by another layer of the other ingredients, and all finally covered by a layer of leaves.  I added three cups of water and cooked the rice slowly for about half an hour until all the water had been absorbed.

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The vine flavour had permeated the layers of rice wonderfully and my new dish went well with a pot-roasted chicken and some pickled lemon relish.

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For the relish, I used three Moroccan pickled lemons, a couple of chopped garlic cloves and a bunch of chopped mint leaves, simply mixed together.

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On a grey, thundery evening the light was disappearing by the time the chicken was cooked and I couldn’t take a good photo of it, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was delicious too!