Place lamb in a stockpot with onions, cardamom, mastic, if using, and 3 litres water. Bring to the boil, removing scum from surface. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour or until lamb is tender. Transfer lamb to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones. Discard bones. Strain stock, reserving 1.5 litres and discarding solids. Stir in lemon juice, 1 tbsp salt and ½ tsp pepper.
Meanwhile, combine beef and rice, and season with 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Rinse vine leaves, then drain. Place tough or broken leaves in the base of a large saucepan, reserving smaller, tender leaves for rolling.
Working in batches, place vine leaves flat on a work surface and remove any stalks with a small knife. Place 1 tsp rice mixture at one end of leaf, fold in the sides and roll up tightly to form finger-like rolls.

Scatter lamb over unstuffed vine leaves in pan, then layer stuffed vine leaves snugly on top. Place an upturned plate over vine leaves to prevent rolls unravelling during cooking. Pour over reserved stock and 125 ml water. Place pan over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover partially and cook for 50 minutes or until rolls are tender. Stand in cooking liquid for 1 hour, then transfer stuffed vine leaves and lamb to a plate. Serve with lemon, bread and yoghurt, if desired.


  • 500 g lamb forequarter pieces, rinsed well
  • 2 onions, peeled
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 pieces of mastic (optional)
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 400 g minced beef
  • 130 g white rice
  • 2 x 500 g jars preserved grape vine leaves (see Note)
  • lemon wedges, flatbread and natural yoghurt (optional), to serve