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Koubebia (Dolmades) 1 - Ellou's Recipe

There are two methods to this recipe as I had two Grandmothers. Each method is named after each of them and there are some major differences. Traditionally, these were made with pork mince, keep reading! You can use any mince you prefer. These are definitely worth the time and effort!


Where do I begin with this one?! My goodness!

Allow me to go back in time to paint you a picture....

Imagine my great grandmother, dressed in black (in mourning, this is until the day she too pass away.... I know, we’ve come a long way), in the fields in sunny Cyprus, pruning her vine plant, picking the softest, delicate leaves to prepare for her family it?

Fast forward 30 years picture this grandmother visiting her mother and over a coffee my gran says she needs to go to her local supermarket to buy some vine leaves as this year it escaped her mind to pick some from her mothers back garden. ‘No problem’ the old lady says, ‘there were so many soft leaves this year, I picked them and froze whatever I didn’t use, take them’.

Fast forward to present day ....there’s no vine plant anywhere near me, the frozen leaves that were in my mums freezer have been used over the course of this past year trying to perfect this recipe and let’s be honest, 99% of you won’t have a vine plant growing in your garden. I had to think of something.

I’m pretty impressed with what you can find in the Greek shop in Enfield Town. I bought my first jar of vine leaves in brine from there, asking if these were ready to work with (pre boiled) or did they need boiling? ‘You can go ahead and use them without boiling’. Great! One less thing to do.

The worst thing about cooking is not achieving the end result you’re aiming for ....they needed to be boiled. I head down there again.

I buy another jar and begin the process again, this time I’m nervous to not over cook the leaves as this may cause them to tear easily so I boil them for 5 minutes. Spend the time wrapping the leaves, one by one, placing them in the saucepan and cooking for an hour ....end result, I should have boiled them, for longer. I’m starting to lose the will to live. I head down there again.

I’m convinced, that this time, I will get this right! Keep in mind that the entire process is time consuming. I can’t bear to wrap a single koubebi and my family can’t bear to eat them anymore but here I go. I need another opinion so I offer to make these for one of my best friends.

I pour myself a glass of wine, music going, I start the process for what feels like attempt number 163. Everything is flowing well, my mince is cooking nicely, my leaves boiling and I’m feeling good about this. I’m feeling relieved until ....I’ve run out of leaves. How can this happen!? I can’t take it, I was on a flow, why God why? What do I do now!? I know, call mum.

Luckily, I live by a high road which makes life very easy for me. I pop to the local 24hr shop and they have some! Great! I can try a different brand too. I put these to boil but can instantly tell they are not the quality of the previous jar. Never mind, it’s good to test different brands out.

So, the conclusion is this, I found the best leaves you can buy in a jar, I know exactly how long to boil them for, I get to share this with you so you don’t have the same problems I’ve had and I can now add koubebia wrapping skill to my CV.


2 Medium Diced Onions

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 1/2 Tinned Chopped Tomatoes

1/2 Tin of Water

500g 12% Beef Mince

1/2 Cup Basmati Rice (washed)

1/2 Tbsp Salt

1/2 Tbsp Pepper

3/4 Tbsp Dry Mint

1/2 Tap Cinnamon

Vine Leaves

1 1/2 Lemon Juice

Glug of Olive Oil


Preparing the Mince

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan and cook the onions on a low heat until soft.

Add the mince meat, cooking until it changes colour and add all the dry ingredients.

Add the tinned tomatoes and water cooking for a further 10 minutes and then turn off the hob.

Finally add the washed, uncooked rice to help soak the water.

Fresh Vine Leaves

Boil water and add the leaves until they change colour and go soft. This will take approximately 10-15 minutes no less.

The Tricky Part

Choose your saucepan checking to see if it has a thick base. If not slice some onions thickly lining the base of your saucepan and line this with vine leaves.

Begin wrapping the koubebia and place in a tight circle inside saucepan. Do not wrap too tightly as they will bust when the rice expands, too loosely will cause them to open. For wrapping see video below.

Once all in place, drizzle generously the olive oil adding 1 1/2 lemon juice.

Place a plate upside down covering the koubebia. This will prevent the koubebia from moving whilst cooking.

Add water to plate level, covering only the koubebia, not the plate.

Place on the hob, on a medium/low heat and position a mug of water or a can of tin tomatoes on top of the plate to keep everything in place.

Lift the plate after an hour to see if water has evaporated. Leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving.


Use a saucepan with a thick base to prevent burning. If your saucepan does not have a thick base, not to worry! Thickly slice some onions and line the base covering with few boiled vine leaves before placing the koubebia.

I find the softest leaves to use are Morphakis Vine Leaves in Brine. Bring water to a good boil, then place the vine leaves in the water, bring to a good boil again and time 10 minutes. Nothing less!

Taste the mince before you begin to wrap, this is the time you can add more of any of the dry ingredients if you feel you need to.

Always wrap vine leaves with the veins facing up.

Vine leaves should be around the size of your hand. If they're very big they’ll be too tough. Feel the difference so you get a better idea of whats good to work with and what isn’t.


Cost under £10 making approximately 50 Koubebia.

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