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Swiss Chard Stuffed with Meat & Rice

Yaprakes de pasi

About the Recipe

After months away, I have just returned home to pick some luscious velvety leaves of Swiss chard growing in my garden to make yaprakes de pasi.
The cuisine of the Jews of Rhodes is heavily influenced by the Levantine and Greek food heritage we inherited.
I recall with fond nostalgia, my mother rolling with her nimble fingers seasonal leaves: grape, cabbage, and Swiss chard, enveloping an aromatic meat and rice filling.
Swiss chard leaves give a tart taste and robust texture to making yaprakes de pasi uniquely flavorsome stewed on a bed of vegetables.
This is yet another sumptuous dish made with humble seasonal ingredients, so popular at family gatherings. I hope this dish inspires you to make it over the weekend accompanied with a rice pilaf and green salad.


2lb (1kg) Swiss chard leaves, large


For the filling:

1lb (500g) ground beef or lamb

1 cup scallions (spring onions), finely chopped

¾ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

½ cup fresh dill, finely chopped

⅔ cup long-grain rice, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, rinsed, drained

1 tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp ground cumin

½ cup canned chopped tomatoes

salt and ground black pepper to taste


For the vegetable base:

2 cups Swiss chard stems, coarsely sliced

3 tbsp olive oil (plus 1 tbsp olive oil for serving)

1 large onion, roughly chopped

4 scallions (spring onions), coarsely sliced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

2 cups Swiss chard, coarsely sliced

1 tbsp tomato paste

1½ cups canned chopped tomatoes

½ tsp sugar

salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup hot water or chicken stock

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 lemon, cut into wedges


Bring a pan of boiling water to boil. With a sharp knife, cut off the central stems and separate from the leaves of the Swiss chard. Reserve stems for the vegetable base. Gently plunge the trimmed chard leaves in batches into a pan of boiling water until they wilt for about 20 seconds. Drain, then refresh the leaves in a bowl of cold water for 1 minute, this helps to retain the color. Drain in a colander and gently press out the excess liquid with the back of a spoon ready for stuffing.


Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and knead well.


Heat the oil in a large, shallow pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, sugar and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add hot water as necessary.


Lay a few Swiss chard leaves at a time on a work surface, shiny side down. If the leaves are very large they may be trimmed to about 5in (12.5cm) irregular rectangles. Place a heaped tablespoon of filling in the center at the bottom end near you. Now fold both sides inward over the filling and roll up snugly into a tight log. Repeat with the remaining leaves until all the filling is used.


Arrange the stuffed leaves, seam side down over the vegetable base, packing them tightly in concentric circles. Weigh the stuffed chard leaves down with an inverted heatproof plate large enough to fit the pan to keep the yaprakes from unravelling during cooking. Mix the hot water (or stock) with the lemon juice and gently pour just enough liquid to cover the yaprakes. Bring to a boil. Cover, cook over low heat for about 45 minutes or until the filling has cooked and the leaves are tender. Shake the pan from time to time to prevent the vegetables from catching. Add hot water as necessary, the yaprakes need the moisture to cook through.


Remove the plate, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil and swirl the pan gently to combine it with the cooking liquid. Taste for salt and lemon juice. Serve hot in the pan with lemon wedges.

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