Arabian Inspired Lamb & Medjool Date Stuffed Grape Leaves
According to my research, these types of stuffed grape leaves were often made with camel meat. This information piqued my curiosity, as I had never given much thought to the way that a camel would taste. Apparently they are quite similar in flavor to lamb, and some say lean beef.
Those who are lucky enough to taste the meat from the camel’s hump say that it’s one of the most aromatic delicacies in existence. It’s certainly a rarity in our modern times - even in the Middle East, it seems - and a complete obscurity in the United States. For this reason, I went with our tender and flavorful lamb meat which combines perfectly with the fragrant spices, Medjool dates and grape leaves.
Lamb Raised In Lush Green Pastures of Mount Ruapehu
Our lamb is raised on the North Island of New Zealand, in the incredibly beautiful foothills of Mount Ruapehu. The lambs are born and live their lives freely roaming the lush green landscape. These animals are raised by the Maori people native to New Zealand, and have been bred for generations for extraordinary taste and quality. They graze on verdant green grass rich with nutrients and are never given any type of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Why We Choose New Zealand Lamb
Lambs in New Zealand graze on some of the world’s most lush and nutrient rich pastures. The country enjoys a unique, subtropical climate that encourages animals and plants alike to flourish. New Zealand has some of the best conditions in the world for raising lamb, which might explain why their population outnumbers humans.
Cultural traditions in New Zealand make it the industry standard to raise meat humanely and naturally. New Zealand lamb is grass fed throughout its life, unlike American lamb which is often grain finished to encourage larger size and higher body fat percentage. New Zealand lambs are smaller in size, because they were allowed to grow and develop the way nature intended.
To make the filling:
- 1 pound ground lamb meat
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or bison tallow (you can also use olive oil but these options have a higher smoke point)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (tastes different than regular paprika)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Pinch of coconut sugar
To assemble the stuffed grape leaves:
- 16 ounce jar of grape leaves
- 1 cup basmati rice (uncooked)
- 5-6 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
- Lemon slices and extra virgin olive oil for garnish
- Let the ground lamb sit out at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes prior to cooking.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and lamb and cook until the meat is browned, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the ginger, cumin, smoked paprika, coriander, sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and coconut sugar.
- Remove from the heat and allow the meat to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked meat with the uncooked rice and chopped dates.
- Drain the jar of grape leaves. Rinse with hot water to remove any residue.
- In a large Dutch oven or baking pan, arrange grape leaves in a single layer on the bottom. Place a dollop of filling (approximately a teaspoon) in the center of each grape leaf. Roll it up like a burrito, taking care not to make it too tight or too loose (keep in mind the rice will expand during cooking).
- Turn the stuffed leaves so that the seam side is facing down in the pan.
- Fill in any empty spots with additional stuffed grape leaves so that there is a fully covered single layer.
- Add water to the Dutch oven or baking pan until the stuffed grape leaves are covered and submerged by about an inch.
- Place a heatproof plate or dish over the top of the grape leaves so that they will not float or come undone while they cook.
- Place the pot over medium-high heat until the water comes to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately one hour. The grape leaves should be tender and the rice cooked all the way through.
- Carefully drain the water out by wearing oven mitts and pressing down on the plate, tipping the Dutch oven or baking dish over the sink. When they’re thoroughly drained, set aside to cool.
- When they’re completely cool, carefully remove them from the dish, taking care that the delicate grape leaves don’t come apart.
- The completed stuffed grape leaves can be kept chilled until it’s time to serve. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh lemon juice squeezed over the top.