On one of our first dates, J took me to a Turkish restaurant in London. At that time in my life, my only real experience with food was traditional Chinese. I was skeptical about almost everything that arrived at the table, dolmades was one of them.
The only Chinese, leaf-stuffed dish is lor mai gai – chicken and rice, steamed in a lotus leaf wrap. You don’t eat the leaf wrapper in this dish. I was so inexperienced with eating other Worldly cuisines, that I assumed you shouldn’t eat the vine (grape) leaf around the dolmades. It makes me laugh thinking about it now… there was me scooping out the filling of the dolmades, as J watched on, making weird faces. It makes me laugh even harder, when I recall seeing the waiter’s face, as he took away the plate.
Since then, I can’t count how many dolmades that I’ve eaten. I have better culinary skills and it excites me to try new foods and cuisines.
We love Greek food, and I absolutely love dolmades. The ones you can buy in tins (cans) or jars are just vile, they do not represent what a real dolma should taste like. To get that, you need to go to a really good Greek restaurant or make them yourself.
Some people may call me mad for making dolmades at home. But remember, I’m only as mad as you think I am.
MEAT & RICE DOLMADES – GREEK STUFFED VINE LEAVES
Makes around 60
Adapted from “Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine – November 2006”
- 227 g (½ lb) vine (grape) leaves* in brine
- 4 T olive oil
- 3 t tomato puree
- 454 g (1 lb) minced (ground) lamb/pork or pork/beef mix
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 T flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 100 g (½ c) white or brown rice
- 1 large tomato, finely chopped
- ½ -1 t ground cinnamon
- Salt and pepper
* You can find vine (grape) leaves in jars in most supermarkets (grocery stores) or Asian and Mediterranean markets. You may need a few more than the amount stated, depending on the size of the leaves.
1. Blanch the leaves in boiling water then refresh in cold water, drain and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the other ingredients, reserving 2 T oil and 1 tsp tomato puree. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Lay out a leaf, vein side up, trim the stalk and place 1 T of mixture onto the leaf. Roll from the stalk end up to make a parcel. Repeat until all the filling has been used up.
4. Lay two kitchen (paper) towels on the bottom of a few lidded pans. Place the dolmades in a single layer then cover with one sheet of kitchen (paper) towel. Repeat with the other dolmades in the other pans.
5. Mix together the remaining tomato puree, olive oil and any lemon juice left, season and add 950 ml (1 quart) of cold water. Pour over the dolmades until just covered.
6. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and allow to simmer, place the lid on and leave for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until the leaves are tender. You can either enjoy them fresh or freeze them, as in step 7.
7. Once cool, place them onto a tray not touching each other, pop into the freezer. After a few hours the dolmades will be individually frozen. Place them into a container and store in the freezer until needed. Cook from frozen by placing them onto a plate, cover with cling-film (plastic wrap) and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Serve with lemon juice. Enjoy!