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Listening to Food

I have recently started listening to all the podcasts I can get my hands on. For years I've been listening to The Kitchen Cabinet - hosted by Jay Rayner and BBC Radio 4 and I still absolutely love it. I love the camaraderie on the panel and the humour and the discussion of local produce in each place the panel visits.

I was convinced by my husband and one of my friends to give My Dad Wrote A Porno a try and I honestly feel like I'm now their biggest advocate. It's a hilarious podcast and all very ridiculous - if you are expecting hardcore porn, you will be very disappointed. I'm sure Rocky Flintstone (the "dad" of MDWAP) does really not know very much about sex and literally nothing about the female body. Honestly, give it a listen, you will not be disappointed.

My latest podcast love is Table Manners hosted by Jessie and Lennie Ware. The mother and daughter team have a dynamic that I would never get away with with my mum. However, listening to what is cooked for their honoured guests makes me so hungry. Particularly when they go full on Friday Night Dinner - brisket, matzo ball soup, chicken soup aka Jewish penicillin... Lennie talking about her cooking just makes me drool.

As well as the food, they have the most interesting guests round for dinner. Incidentally, I am listening to an episode as I write this where Jessie and Lennie are interviewing the MDWAP trio so... I think that proves my point.

So anyway, I am now listening to whatever podcast, particularly about food, that I find even remotely interesting. It's great while driving and cooking and I honestly feel like I'm sitting with the host as they're talking. That, for me, is the sign of a good podcast.

One thing this has inspired me to do is talk about my food. No, I am not producing a podcast. But I do introduce every single course at my events with a story and I have recently started to organise workshops where I teach how to make well known and rarely tried at home Arabic food.

My first workshop was for stuffed vine leaves. I honestly thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was so nervous but as soon as everyone had arrived I just started talking. I was teaching, story telling and demonstrating and I have honestly never felt so comfortable doing anything before in my life.

One thing I give my class participants is the recipe of what they've just made. Even though I feel like a vine leaf recipe is better when demonstrated, here is the recipe I handed out. It is a vegetarian version and I could eat these at least once a week. I hope you like this as much as I do.

Waraq Einab - Stuffed Vine Leaves


  • 500g Egyptian rice (pudding rice may also work)

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander

  • 2 tsp summaq

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 3 tomatoes - finely diced

  • 2 tomatoes - sliced to line the pot

  • Jar or packet of soaked vine leaves

In a large saucepan, lay the sliced tomatoes and two flat vine leaves on the bottom. This makes the lining so the dolma don’t burn. If your hobs don’t change temperature very efficiently (like mine), use baking paper under the tomatoes.

Mix the rice, spices, salt and tomatoes together in a bowl. This is your filling.

From a stack of vine leaves, lay one, vein side up, flat in front of you. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the leaf (or slightly more if it’s a particularly big one). Fold the sides in first and then roll up so that the parcel closes on the point. Lay the full leaf in the pot, point side up. Repeat this for the rest of the leaves.

Pack the leaves together so that they fit snugly but not too tightly. You want to leave room for the rice to expand while it cooks.

When you have filled the pot, or used all your filling, place another few loose leaves over the top and place a small plate upside down on top. For good luck, you can also use a heatproof glass to rest on top of the plate during the cooking process - but it is not essential.

Fill the pot with boiling water so that it just covers the rim of the plate once the water has settled. Bring to a boil and the simmer for 60-90 minutes. You can test one after 60 if you like but don’t return it to the pot after you have sampled.

Let the dolma rest with the lid on the pot , off the heat, for 30 minutes. Then, if your pot is full and not too heavy, flip the dolma out onto a serving platter. I would practice this with smaller batches first.

I prefer to take the stuffed leaves out one by one and arrange them nicely on a serving plate, putting the tomatoes from the bottom of the pot on top.

Serve as a main meal with yoghurt, hummus, bread and salad or serve as part of a larger mezze spread.


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