It was inevitable to make this dish after my post on how to preserve the grape leaves. In fact, since then, I ended up making 3 batches for 3 different occasions. It is one of those dishes that you cannot get enough of, especially when you want an elegant finger food.
This delicious dish is easier to make than you think. If you never had a home made one, but still like the taste of the store bought one I suggest you allocate some time for this dish and prepare a feast.
Unfortunately all the restaurants (Middle Eastern or Greek) I had them here in US could not do a good job in making the filling. Such a shame and waste of the ingredients. You can even find them in tins, sold in Middle Eastern stores. Well, I made a mistake once and bought one of them. Was a total waste. Could not even finish one.
Again, if you like them, make yourself a favor and prepare them home. Better yet; find a friend to chat with while making the rolls. Later you will have a feast to share, too!
Oh, the name “dolma.” Many think it is a Greek food. No need to argue who made it first. For all I know there was a Greek, Arab and a Turkish lady in the kitchen and came up with this. But there is one thing I know for sure; the name “dolma” is derived from the verb “dolmak” which means “to be filled”, “to get full” in Turkish. Case dismissed!
You also can see it called as “yalanjee” or some spelling variation close to this. Especially in Arab restaurants. This again is another Turkish name for this wrapped grape leaves. It actually is spelled “yalancı” in Turkish (/c/ is a hard /c/) and means “lier” or “fake.” Since a similar dish is made with meat stuffing, this one is considered to be the “fake” one.
Enough of language and culture lesson? Let’s get to the recipe.
The ingredients I am listing below are ballpark. If you like more currants put some more. Not have enough pine nuts home, no problem. Also using carrots for this recipe is not that common either; my mom has been using them so I used too. Along with the currants they give a bit of sweetness which contrasts the grape leaves’ taste. Once you know how you like it, you can experiment with more ingredients as well.
The same filling can also be used to fill bell peppers, small eggplants (real tiny ones that you can purchase in Middle Eastern or Indian stores) or even the squash blossoms. For the squash blossoms what you have to keep in mind is that you should collect them when they are fully open in the morning (once it heats up, they close), and be gentle with them.
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cup rice
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Salt, pepper
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 bunch of parsley (and/or dill optional)
For assembly and cooking:
- grape leaves (16 oz jar should be sufficient for this amount of filling)
- 2.5 cups water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 – 2 lemons to decorate
- Heat ¼ cups of olive oil in a large pot, and add onions and pine nuts stir them until they are lightly brown.
- Add the rice, currants, and shredded carrots, salt and stir them well. Cook for about 2 – 3 mins. Add a cup of warm water, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste. Stir and close the lid, turn the heat down and let it cook until no water is left.
- If you have any parsley and/or dill you can chop them finely and add them to your filling. Do not discard the parsley stems.
- Prepare the grape leaves by soaking them in the warm water for couple of minutes. If you have a chance to use fresh leaves, group them and cook them briefly in salty boiling water
- Take a leaf, put the shiny side down, and pinch the stem – do not discard but put the stems aside. Also, while wrapping the dolmas if you come across to a leaf that is torn or not useable, do not discard, keep with those extra stems.
- Put about 1 – 2 Tbs (depends how big the leaf is) of filling and start rolling them as in the pictures
- All those stems or faulty leaves you have been collecting can be put at the bottom of the pot to help not burn the dolmas while cooking
- I usually wrap the dolmas, and stack them on a dish until there is 2 cups worth of filling left in the pot. Then I transfer the filling to a smaller bowl, and put the collected stems at the bottom of that pot, and start stacking the uncooked stuffed grape leaves, layer by layer. No need to wash the pot; you just cooked the filling there.
- If you are left with extra filling, you can either freeze them or stuff a small bell pepper. If the filling was not enough for your grape leaves, put the extra leaves back to the brine.
- Put a plate on top of the dolmas and pour ¼ cup of olive oil and 2.5 cups of warm water.
- Close the lid, put dish upside down to hold the dolmas down and cook on very low heat for about an hour. Make sure to check if the water is enough at least half way through cooking. You can check if they are cooked by pinching one of the leaves and see how easy it is to tear it.
- Let it cool in that pot.
- Transfer cooled dolmas to a serving dish, after each layer, put some lemon slices. Cover them so they do not dry out. Put in the fridge and let it cool for at least 4 – 5 hours.