On my recent trip to Lebanon, my brother and I spent quality time together making these moreish stuffed Swiss chard fingers and I think they’re just the right treat. I had never made them before and when I asked my aunt for the recipe her response went a little like this:” a handful of this, pinch of that, taste and see…” and well we had to make 3 different batches before we got it just right.
Making these heavenly chard fingers was also special because the leaves were picked from the family gardens and were grown organically. A word of warning- they really do get eaten up quickly and since it is quite time consuming to make, I strongly suggest you make a very large batch and then freeze any excess for later use.
I mean it… they are VERY moreish!
Swiss Chard Stuffed with Herb Rice & Chickpeas
Time: 1-2 hours preparation + 45 minute cooking time
Makes: 50 stuffed Swiss chard fingers or enough for 5 people
The Cast of Characters
For the filling
- 2.5kg/6lb of Swiss chard leaves w/ stalks or about 50 leaves
- 450g or about 2.5 cups of Egyptian or short grain rice
- 180g or about 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight and halved & peeled (you can substitute with pine nuts)
- 1-2 onions finely chopped or about 1 cup
- 4 medium tomatoes, finely chopped or about 2 cups
- 1 large bunch of parsley, finely chopped or about 2 cups
- 1 small bunch of mint, finely chopped or about 1/2 cup
- 125ml or 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 125ml or 1/2 cup of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- salt & pepper to taste
For the pot (medium size, about 15 cm deep. Enough to hold the stuffed chard and the water to cover them)
- 2-3 large tomatoes, sliced
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 10 garlic cloves, sliced
- water to cover
1) Crack chickpeas (which have been soaked overnight) by running them over with a rolling pin so they split in half. Discard all skins.
2) Remove chard stems (before or after cooking) then soften leaves by dipping 5 or 6 at a time in boiling, salted water for no longer than a minute. Have a large bowl of ice cold water at hand and as you remove the boiled Swiss chard let it cool in the cold water so to stop cooking. Then set aside in a strainer and allow to drain while you finish the process for the remaining leaves.
3)Wash and drain rice. Mix the rice, chickpeas (or nuts), parsley, mint, chopped onions, tomatoes, salt, pepper, cinnamon, sumac, oil and 3/4 of the lemon juice. Reserve the other 1/4 of lemon juice to sprinkle on chard rolls near end of cooking.
4) Stuff one leaf at a time using a heaping teaspoonful of stuffing. Fold up from bottom or where the stem end was over stuffing and fold in from each side to center; then roll up like a cigar as per below photo illustration.
5) Layer the pot with the sliced tomatoes, onions and garlic and then add the chard fingers in layers with open end down. Add the remaining lemon juice and some rock salt to taste. Cover with a plate that fits into the pot, so it keeps everything from moving around, and then cover with water. Bring to a boil for about 15 minutes then uncover and simmer on low-medium heat to reduce the sauce. Entire cooking time should take about 45 minutes.
6) Once finished cooking, set aside to cool for about 15 minutes then turn out onto serving platter. Serve cold. You can serve with them a chilled garlic-yogurt dressing.
P.S- chopping off the tough stem-end helps facilitate the rolling and minimizes tearing. If you feel that even after the cutting of the stem there still remains a tough bit, then cut it out as required following a V shape.