stuffed vine leaves

I love stuffed vine leaves - there is something so summery and moreish about them. I love the Lebanese style "warak dawali" with rice, spices, lamb and mint, and the Greek "dolamades" with rice, pine nuts and lemon. This is my spin on the latter with with brown rice, fennel bulb, onion and fresh herbs - drizzled with a fresh mint and lemon-zest infused olive oil. I'm not sure if its the briney-vine leaf or the creamy rice filling but they are ridiculously delicious, though on the rich side!

large quantity of cooked grape vine leaves (approx. 8 ounces)
(you can use fresh grape-vine leaves and boil them in salty water or you can use the pre-cooked leaves in brine - but you will need to soak and rinse some of the salt out of them)
1 cup medium-grain brown rice
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
zest of 1-2 lemons
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 lemons sliced
fresh mint
more olive oil

to make the rice filling:
gently sauté onion with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or fry-pan. Add chopped fennel and continue to gently cook until soft and golden. Add rice and stir for a minute or so before adding 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 1/2 cup of stock. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes before adding another 1/2 cup of stock - kind of like you would cook a risotto except that we're not completely cooking the rice only getting it to par-boil stage. Stir in fresh herbs. 

choose big, unbroken (cooked) vine leaves. using a small sharp knife cut away hard piece of stem at the base of the leaf. With the shiny side of the leaf facing down, take 1-2 teaspoons of rice mixture and place in the centre of the leaf in a little rectangular shape. Then fold in bottom, followed by the sides and roll towards the top - as you would wrap a rice paper roll - you don't want them to be too tight because the rice will cook further and expand. If you're really stuck on how to do this try searching youtube for clips of greek-mamas demonstrating!

to cook:
place a plate in the bottom of a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. place a generous layer of broken/discarded vineleaves over the plate. next pack your vine-leaf rolls in tightly over the bed of leaves, seam-side down. you may need to do two layers - if so break one layer up with flat vineleaves and a few slices of lemon. Cover your vine-leaf rolls with a layer of  lemon slices, a layer of vine leaves and another plate resting on top. Pour remaining cup of stock or 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer on a low heat for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Let everything cool for 1/2 hour in the pot before removing.

meanwhile make your drizzling oil:
in a mortar and pestle combine remaining lemon zest with 1/4 cup of freshly chopped mint leaves and 1/3 cup of cold-pressed virgin olive oil.

arrange vine-leaf rolls on a plate and liberally pour drizzling oil all over them. Enjoy with fresh yoghurt and tabouli salad or whatever you wish. They are even tastier the next day!