Traditional Greek rice pilaf is a serious comfort dish - perfect to be enjoyed all year round. However this version, a vine shoot pilaf called ambelokorfades pilaf (Αμπελοκορφάδες πιλάφι) is just for spring and early summer when the shoots of the vines are still incredibly tender.
I have always loved the way in which traditional Greek cooking uses grape vine leaves in such a variety of ways, but it was a real revelation to have been given a recipe, from a Greek friend in the Ionian Islands, for just the vine shoots themselves. Another novel wild green I would never have thought of using, except for the wisdom of my Greek friends! I love how absolutely nothing goes to waste in the Greek kitchen - and the way in which a few good quality humble ingredients can really make for a very special dish.
This is a great dish to try if you have very productive grape vine at home - or perhaps a neighbour or friend who does - and who won't mind you taking some scissors to it! Even better if you know someone who has a vineyard and is in the process of clipping their vines back for summer. Just be sure to use organic, unsprayed vines.
The flavour of the vine shoots are very delicate and they give a subtle sourness - similar to the flavour of verjuice. The vine tips are also a fantastic alternative to use in this dish in summer, instead of the more common use of lemon - which are starting to head out of season.
This pilaf makes a great main meal, all by itself with just a sprinkling of feta. Alternatively, leave off the feta and serve the pilaf as a side dish to grilled fish or meat.
Ambelokorfades pilaf (Αμπελοκορφάδες πιλάφι)
1 cup long grain rice
1 & 1/2 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron threads, soaked in a tablespoon of warm water (optional)*
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 small of bunch of tender vine shoots, chopped fine
1. Start by soaking rice in warm water for a few minutes and then rinse well. Set aside.
2. Melt butter in pan, add the oil. Then add the vine tips and sauté for a few minutes. Add the rice and mix well.
3. Cook until rice turns opaque, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the chicken or vegetable stock, saffron (and the water it has been soaking in) bring to boil, reduce heat cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
5. Remove from heat, cover with towel, and place lid over towel. Let sit for 10 or so minutes. Use a fork to mix the vine tips through the rice. You can serve with a sprinkling of feta as a main meal, or leave off the feta and serve as a side dish to grilled fish or meat.