“When you want something done properly, do it yourself”
Well, the same can be said about Dolmades, a distinctive Mediterranean dish; that I tried for the first time, tried nearly a decade ago.
You’ll probably remember me mentioning the fact that I used to work for a Greek company, in Chelsea. As with most things, it was a mixed bag of highs and lows. There were magical memories, but also some incidences that I’d gladly give anything to forget.
The time spent there, gave me a deep understanding of myself and what I wanted from my career; but more importantly, I snagged some great authentic Greek recipes.
Quick and Easy Dolmades
A simple Google search will show you that the practice of stuffing vine leaves with rice, meat and various herbs, is by no means unique to Greece or her islands. From Italy to Lebanon, to even as far out as Russia, its popularity is undisputed. It is only natural then, that with such a rejoiced dish, there will always be countless variations.
What I love about this particular recipe is the ease and speed you can bang it out.
From plate to palate, it takes just under an hour.
I’ve made it so much over the years, that I’ve given up using exact measurements and nowadays just work off the top of my head.
With the exception of the vine leaves, all the ingredients can be found in most supermarkets. However, if you’re having trouble locating the vine leaves, you can substitute with a large large leafy green such as kale or even cabbage. But be aware that this substitute doesn’t quite compare. The vine leaves lend an incomparable and distinctive flavor, but that shouldn’t stop you from experiencing the great marriage of all things leaf, meat and rice.
Whichever way you decide to make it, I can honestly say, that once you’ve tried making your own, you’ll never look at the store bought variety quite the same.
This recipe makes about 60
60 vine leaves (frozen or vacuum packed in brine – I prefer the brined variety)
1kg beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch of mint, chopped
1 bunch of dill, chopped
200g rice – most recipes ask for short grain, but I always find that the bog standard, cheap long grains works just as well
150ml of Olive oil
1 tin of plum tomatoes
1 tbsp of salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 lemon, juiced
1. If your leaves are frozen, first blanch leaves in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then allow to sit in cold water. With the brined variety, I prefer to simply dab off the excess water and start using.
2. In a bowl, combine the mince, 2/3rd of your salt and pepper, onion, dill, 1 clove of finely chopped garlic, mint, rice, 2/3rds of the oil, and a splash of water.
You really want to mix everything properly.
3. Lay out your first vine leaf (smooth side facing down, veined side facing up) and place a spoonful of the mixture onto the center-top of the vine leaf. Firmly roll the stalk, then fold the sides in. Repeat until all of your vine leafed have been stuffed.
If you’re having difficulty with the wrapping, please click here, to watch the video I made on how to do this.
4. Place facing seam side down in a saucepan. Alternatively, you can stand them up, but make sure to tightly pack them in your saucepan.
5. Pour in the tin tomatoes, the remainder of your salt and pepper, about 50ml ml of water, and the remaining olive oil.
6. Place a small plate inside the pot on top of the stuffed vine leaves. This acts as a weight and restricts the possibility of your vine leaves moving.
6. Allow to cook for about 40 minutes on medium – low heat settings. Should it look like you’re running out water, simply add small amounts incrementally.
7. Carefully remove from pot, and weighted plate. It is extremely hot at this point, so I would recommend leaving for about 5 minutes before serving.
8. Serve some of the tomato sauce and a squeeze of some of the lemon juice.