Dolmades aka Stuffed Grape Vine Leaves
Dolmades aka Stuffed Grape Vine Leaves, are aromatic with a unique flavour. They are stuffed with simple and wholesome ingredients that make the perfect meal or even the perfect finger food. It may be a little time consuming and labour intensive but do not let that stop you from making them. They are so worth the effort! The canned dolmades that everyone buys does not even compare to the deliciousness of fresh hand made ones.
Dolmades have always been in my top 10 favourite foods (does anyone else have a favourite food list or am I the only one? LOL). I love that you can eat them warm, at room temperature and even cold straight of the fridge. You know what that means? Work and school box lunches are ready the next day from the leftovers! Woot Woot! When I was a child, I used to pack 3-4 of them between two slices of bread and take it to school. It was my dolma-sandwich. The Aussie kids would look at my sandwich in a very confused state while the Greek kids would beg me for a bite. Was I going to share? I don’t think so… Hehehe
Growing up my mum used to make cabbage dolmades all year round as grape vine leaves are only available in summer. However this was my father’s favourite ones. Summer arrived and he would go to the garden and collect the leaves. He had a grape vine only for the leaves not necessarily for the grapes. I guess that in itself explains how much he loved them.
In saying that, one thing is very important when it comes to making dolmades. If you are picking fresh vine leaves, they must be tender, young and good quality otherwise they remain tough even after cooking. Their colour should be a bright light green (you will notice that in the photos). If you are using the bottled ones, they may also be tough so they may need some extra boiling time before using them to assemble the dolmades.
Please note: Dolmades are stuffed in a variety of ways. When we are fasting we only use rice, vegetables and herbs for the mixture. In some parts of Greece, pine nuts and sultanas are also added to the vegetarian versions. I have presented to you my favourite way and the way my parents taught me. It is the perfect little parcel filled with meat, vegetables, rice and herbs. Simply divine! Enjoy x
80 fresh grape vine leaves or preserved vine leaves
500g beef mince 1/4 cup short / medium grain rice 1/4 cup basmati / long grain rice 2 medium zucchini grated 3 stems finely chopped green onions
1 onion grated 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley 1/4 cup finely chopped fennel 1 egg Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil + extra
Juice of 1 lemon
30cm wide heavy base pot with lid
Feta, Olives, Tomatoes, Cucumber
A large glass of cold water, ice cubes and ½ shot of ouzo. OPA!
1. Prepare your filling. In a large bowl add the beef mince, both varieties of rice, zucchini, onion, green onions, parsley, fennel, egg, sea salt and pepper. Mix well by hand
2. Prepare the grape vine leaves. Cut off any tough stems by cutting a V around the stem.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Place on the bench beside the pot a large bowl of icy cold water.
Place 10 or so leaves at a time into the simmering water until they have changed colour (approximately 30 seconds – 1 minute).
Remove the leaves with a mesh strainer and place them straight into the icy water.
They will remain here until you need to assemble the dolmades.
3. Place a layer of vine leaves on the bottom of the wide base pot you will be cooking the dolmades in (this prevents them from sticking (see photo).
4. To fill and roll the leaves, gently separate one leaf from the icy water and place it on the work surface (veins facing up).
Place a heaped teaspoon amount (for large size vine leaves) of filling at the bottom where the stem would usually join the leaf.
a.Fold up from the bottom of the leaf covering the filling,
b.Then fold each side inwards
c.Then continue rolling stem to tip
6. Roll firmly but not too tight, as there is need for room for the rice to expand. Repeat.
7. Add the dolmades, one at a time next to each other (packed closely but not squashed. This prevents them from unrolling during cooking) in the pot, creating the first layer. When the first layer is complete, continue a second layer until they are all done.
8. Drizzle the 2 tablespoons of olive oil all over and then place a heavy plate upside down on top of them to keep them in place as they cook. The plate should fit snuggly in the pot.
9. Pour enough warm water over the dolmades to cover them and most of the plate. Cover with the pot lid and place over high heat until boiling. Then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 50 minutes.
10. Once cooked, allow cooling for 15 minutes and then with a fork to help you, carefully lift up plate. Caution as it still may be hot.
11. With a spoon, remove one dolma at a time and place onto platter.
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and season with a little sea salt and pepper. These can be served warm or cold.
Some like to serve them with Greek yogurt, however they go very nicely with feta, olives, tomatoes and cucumber sticks.