Making Tamek

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There’s a Turkish shop on Smallbrook Queensway that we often stop in at when we go to the market or walk to the station. It came into its own during the early weeks of the shutdown back in April and May, as the shelves are densely packed floor to ceiling with all sorts of essentials including dried beans – which we struggled to find in the supermarkets – and other goodies like tahini – a staple in our household – as well as treats like tins of stuffed vine leaves. Ed and I call stuffed vine leaves ‘Tamek’ because that’s the brand the Turkish shop sells.

I have wanted to try making stuffed vine leaves from scratch for a long time, but was intimidated because it’s quite a fiddly and time consuming task and I didn’t know where to find the leaves. There’s an Iranian shop on the Hagley Road that used to sell them, but they haven’t carried them for a long time. Ed’s mum made a pot of them last weekend, which reminded me of how good they taste when they’re fresh and homemade, and so we bought a jar of the preserved leaves when we found them tucked away on a high shelf in a corner of the Turkish shop and attempted them at home for the first time.

Loosely following this recipe for vegan stuffed vine leaves, but substituting bulgur for rice and embellishing it with ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg following advice from my mother-in-law, our first attempt was a success. They took about 45 minutes to prepare while Minou slept on the bench in the late afternoon sunshine, another 45 minutes to cook, and then an hour or so to cool while I watched the low sun flicker through the branches of the trees outside and cast shadows on the living room wall, so they are far from fast food. That said, sometimes it’s nice to make a meal that takes a little longer to prepare. We still have half a jar of leaves in the fridge, so I think we’ll be making them again one night this week as I don’t know how long the brine will keep them fresh for now that the jar is open.

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