Spring Green Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Sun-dried Tomato and Fennel Seed, Served with Warm Hummus, Garlicky Mushrooms and Harissa Oil
Spring greens, also known as collard greens, are a loose-leaved type of cabbage. An inexpensive green (a large bunch will often cost less than £1) that is incredibly nutritious, and yet I hardly see these greens in our recipes, compared to their more popular cabbage family members curly kale or cavolo nero. I will admit, that even I, a self confessed vegetable loving chef, has not given these greens much thought until now.
Spring greens can be shredded, then stir fried or added to a minestrone style soup, but since the leaves are so large they work so well as a wrap.
I’d already planned this recipe for a January yoga retreat, when fortuitously my Sister’s Cypriot mother in law, Sue made us her Koubebia (stuffed vine leaves) during my Christmas visit. Hers authentically with vine leaves and a stuffing of pork, rice, tomato and onion – it gave the perfect opportunity to watch an expert at work and alongside my young nieces, learn how to roll them!
For my filling, I’ve kept things vegetarian (vegan even) with a rice base, and chosen lots of lovely Mediterranean flavours that go with rice – sun-dried tomato, fennel seed and pine nuts. Three to four large rolls make a perfect veg-centric main, and for a serving suggestion I recommend a smooth warm hummus, plus a garnish of garlicky sautéed shiitake mushrooms, and a splash of colour and heat from harissa oil. I served these on my first chef job of the year, but with celeriac purée instead of the hummus, and despite the hour it took me to single handedly roll 50-odd of them, will be staying on my catering menus going forwards.
Unlike Sue’s stuffed vine leaves, my filling is completely cooked before it goes in the rolls (PSA it would make a lovely pilaf on its own), and since the spring greens are blanched too, the rolls just need a bake in the oven to warm through and gel together.
To give credit where credit is due, for my methods, I took advice from Riverford’s spring green rolls recipe as well as Angela Clutton’s stuffed chard in Borough Market: The Knowledge.
- 75g white basmati (I like the basmati/wild rice mixes for this)
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the top of the rolls
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 50g sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil), finely chopped
- 30g pine nuts, gently toasted in a dry frying pan until golden
- 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley + dill
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 9 large spring green leaves
- Vegetable or chicken stock / splash white wine
- Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F
- Rinse the rice, place in a saucepan, and add just enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer until al dente, around 15 minutes (check packet just in case shorter is recommended), drain well.
- In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and over a medium-high hear, saute the chopped onion and celery, with a pinch of salt until softened, around 10 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and drained rice. Cook for a few more minutes, until any excess water clinging to the rice has evaporated. Add in the toasted pine nuts, chopped herbs, and lemon zest. Season to taste. (NB steps 2&3 can be done in advance, and the rice cooled and refrigerated until needed).
- Next prepare the spring greens. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and blanch the whole leaves for up to 5 minutes, or until they have completely softened for rolling. Remove using tongs and plunge into a large bowl of ice-cold water, or rinse under a cold tap until fully cooled. Pat dry using a clean tea towel.
- Working one at a time, place a leaf down on your chopping board, with the ridged underside of the leaf facing up. With the stalk end pointing towards you, use a sharp knife to slice out the central rib, then over-lap the leaf to cover the gap. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the mixture onto the leaf, about ⅓ of the way up from the bottom. Fold up over the rice, then fold in the sides and keep rolling till you've formed a parcel. Place into a deep-sided baking dish big enough to take all 9 leaves, with the flap/join facing down and safely secured underneath. Repeat with the remaining leaves, trying very hard to maintain consistency of size and shape!
- Pour in enough vegetable stock/juice of the lemon/splash wine to a depth of ⅓ way up the rolls. Brush or spray olive oil over the top of the leaves, and cover the tray with foil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, till steamy hot. The leaves may brown in places, which is fine! Serve while still warm.
Make a loose hummus, and warm gently on the stove
Stir-fry around 100g sliced shiitake mushrooms in olive oil with a finely chopped clove of garlic, until browned
Mix 1 tsp harissa paste with 1 tbsp olive oil till drizzleable.
Garnish with a sprig or 2 of dill.
To plate up start with a swish of hummus, top with the stuffed leaves, then the mushrooms, harissa oil and a sprig or 2 of dill.