Dolmades

Stuffed Vine Leaves

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You can use fresh vine leaves or those bought in brine, but if you use frozen you’ll need to blanch them in boiling water first. Also, you can try adding pine nuts, sultanas or other fresh herbs to the filling.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 550 g (1 lb 4 oz) minced (ground) pork and beef
  • 3 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, grated or peeled and puréed
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 100 g (½ cup) uncooked long-grain rice
  • 230 g (8 oz) vine leaves (450 g/1 lb if bought in brine)
  • 40 g ( oz) butter
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus extra, to serve
  • plain greek yoghurt, to serve

Method

To make the filling, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a non-stick saucepan. Add the mince and sauté until it is just cooked and has begun to turn golden in places. Add the spring onions and sauté for a couple of minutes to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, parsley, mint, cinnamon and rice and mix through very well, cooking for an extra minute or so to slightly soften the rice. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Prepare the vine leaves. Layer five or six imperfect leaves on the bottom of a large saucepan to prevent the dolmades sticking. Take another leaf and, holding it in your palm (shiny side down), put a tablespoon or so of filling neatly in the middle. (If your leaves are small you can use two together, slightly overlapping them.) To wrap up the leaves snugly, fold up the bottom part, then fold one side tightly over the stuffing, fold down the top part and then fold the other side around. Then roll it up to make a compact bundle. (You can make the dolmades as small as you like, just take care not to stretch the leaves too much or they may tear.) Layer the dolmades over the vine leaves lining the pan, making two or three layers if necessary. Dot with the butter and add about 750 ml (3 cups) of water. Drizzle the lemon juice and remaining olive oil over the top and season with a little salt.

Turn a plate over and put it on top of the dolmades so that it fits tightly in the saucepan and will hold them in shape while cooking. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the dolmades are soft and juicy. There should still be some liquid in the bottom of the pan; if not, add a bit more water towards the end. Serve the dolmades hot or cold with lemon juice and a dollop of yoghurt.