Turn over a new leaf
Vine leaves are used for a plethora of recipes, not just dolmathes. Resident foodie Dora Kitinas-Gogos explores cooking with ambelofila
It's hard to write about Greek food and not discover all sorts of mythological and historical antidotes attached to the recipes or to why things were cooked in certain ways.
One of the most interesting stories is how we came to cook in vine leaves. According to Greek mythology dolmades where served with ambrosia and nectar on Mount Olympus.
It seems most likely that surrounding food in a vine leaf had more to do with practical matters than myth and the god's self indulgence. When Alexander the Great besieged Thebes and strangled the supplies, the people of Thebes cut whatever little meat they had and wrapped it in vine leaves.
I have given the history of the dolma in a previous article along with the recipe.
I now want to concentrate on other foods that the vine leaf plays a serious role in.
As with the dolma, vine leaves were originally used for practical reasons. In the past, food was cooked outside on open fires.
There is nothing original about the BBQ or the souvla, it has been around for thousands of years. The Greeks built their houses in a square with a central courtyard where the cooking was done, as there was no kitchen, like we know it today.
Vine leaves, along with other leaves, were used to hold food together on the grill on top of the charcoal, but the vine leaf came out on top as it also added flavour to the food.
Try cooking a fish on a BBQ, it falls apart, wrap it in a vine leaf and see what happens, it stays in one piece and with lemon, pepper, salt and a little oregano it's a recipe to make you lick your fingers. I presume, like any good Greek, you will have picked the head with your fingers and sucked the eyes out. This is a habit I have and makes my non-Greek friends shudder.
Given that the grape can do so much, it's easy to forget its partner in crime on a tree - the leaf - an ingredient that can take a humble dish to a whole new level.
You can use either fresh leaves or preserved vine leaves found in a jar or tin that are readily available in Mediterranean delicatessens. This is handy for people who don't have easy access to fresh vine leaves and also for recipes that require vine leaves when they are out of season. The brined alternative are generally used for wrapping dolmathes.
When using brined vine leaves, always be sure to wash them thoroughly prior to cooking to reduce the amount of salt on the leaves. Store the brined leaves in a cool, dry place and use within two days of opening. Brined vine leaves give a new dimension to cooking on the BBQ as it adds a layer of saltiness to the smokiness of the way the protein is cooked.
Using fresh vine leaves is a whole other ball game, but one that allows you to create a world of flavours depending on spices and ingredients used. Always use medium to large vine leaves that are light green in colour to take on the flavours.
Try and select leaves that haven't browned and that are still in tact. Thoroughly clean the vine leaves and dry them in the same way you would any other green vegetable before cooking with it, and then remove the hard stem. The stem in the middle of the leaf can stay in tact as it softens while cooking. You only need to dip the vine leaf in boiling water for a few seconds and take it straight out as any longer will overcook them.
If you are using them to wrap food you will find they are too overcooked and will fall apart. You are looking at only wilting the leaf and not cooking it. When cooking with fresh leaves, only dip two to three leaves at a time to monitor the wilting process and not overcrowd the saucepan you are using.
Just a quick not to my readers, if you have any queries or would like me to reprint a recipe from a while back let me know. I will make an effort to meet your needs. I also would like to thank all those people who write to me with my personal queries and thank you all for clearing up the meaning of "koukoule". I am also keen to share recipes with my readers, so if you would like to, or would even like me to publish a Hellenic inspired dish from my own personal collection, I would happily oblige. Send an email to email@example.com and just tell me whatever your foodie heart desires.
- Register Now
- Mykonos: Something to 'Crowe' about
- Greek community pays tribute to Hazel Hawke
- Melbourne Heart signs Massimo Murdocca
- Gastronomy Days at Benaki Museum
- Greece honours Australian WWII veterans
- Greek men affected by crisis
- Christopoulos to open new Melb Cafe
- Philippoussis vs furry animals
- New rules for reverse mortgages
- Tax overhaul draft sees no declarations for single incomes
- 8 May 2013 | 13 Votes
- 3 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 15 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 8 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 22 May 2013 | 8 Votes
- 13 May 2013 | 8 Votes
Marcos Rojas will join the German team and leave behind his team of two years, Melbourne Victory
Closed in 1996, the High School nurtured many young Greeks
Round six of Victorian Premier League this weekend brings new coach for Oakleigh Cannons
The conclusion of the A1 basketball league’s regular season saw the relegation of Peristeri to the A2 after a dramatic battle with Ilisiakos
Just shy of turning 100, three Greek Australian sisters die within 17 days of each other
Karithopita was the first cake I made from Mum's new cookbook by Sofia Skoura. It was my mum's new Tselemende and we were all so excited, says chef Kathy Tsaples
David Moyes will replace Sir Alex Ferguson as the club's manager, taking on a six-year contract
The 2013-14 program provides 128,550 places for skilled migrants; 60,885 places for family migration and 565 places for special cases
The plight of migrants in the fields of Greece
Tsochatzopoulos called for two defense ministers in the New Democracy governments that took over from PASOK from 2004 onward to be questioned
Victorian veterans and families to receive Medals of Honour from Greek Army chief
The businessman hopes to bring international interest to the complex
Cafe owners embrace goodwill scheme for the less fortunate
Mum's the word for a special comedy event for the Pansamian House
European and Siglo owner, Con Christopoulos will be opening a new cafe on Hardware Lane in Melbourne
MP Maria Vamvakinou has vowed to stop Golden Dawn opening Australian offices after what she saw in Greece
Campaigner for the Cypriot community for years, Mr Toumbourou was beloved by many in the Greek and Cypriot community
Greeks know good coffee. This year's World Barista and Brewer Championships sees a tailored and very talented Greek team vie for the top gong.