Prawn, ginger & goji berry dolmas

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Preparation info

  • Make

    8

    around 24-30
    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Fusion: A Culinary Journey

Fusion

By Peter Gordon

Published 2010

  • About

Dolmas are available in cafés and restaurants throughout Turkey and there are many types found throughout the former Ottoman empire, from Albania to Iraq and Iran. Stuffed vegetables appear in many cuisines, I’ve eaten lovely stuffed peppers in Italy, stuffed tomatoes in Provence and stuffed kumara and baby pumpkin in New Zealand. However, it was the Ottomans who are credited with wrapping stuffing in leaves, specifically vine leaves. I’ve eaten such in Greece and Turkey and they make a great snack on a hot day. They can be filled with vegetarian or meat-based fillings, and usually the veggie ones are served cold. However, I decided that I wanted to bring the Ottoman creation in line with other great rice-based cuisines so I’ve given it an Asian twist by adding prawns, ginger and fish sauce from South-East Asia, and goji berries which tend to be grown in Tibet and Mongolia in place of the more usual currants. It was only recently that I realised that what I’d known as wolfberries, bought cheaply from Chinese food stores for many years, were in fact the supposed super-food now called goji berries. The result is a really tasty rice-dish canapé, the ginger, prawn stock and mint giving it a lovely flavour. Eat cold as a snack, or pass around at a party.

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-sized raw prawns, in their shells
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, cut into 8
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced or sliced
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 30 g pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 20 g goji berries
  • 150 g long-grain rice (or use risotto rice)
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) fish sauce
  • a small handful of mint leaves, shredded
  • 24-30 preserved vine leaves (plus another 12 for cooking)
  • 1 whole lemon and 60 ml lemon juice
  • 50 ml anise-flavoured liqueur such as Ouzo or Pastis

Method

Peel the prawns and remove the heads if they have them. Heat up a pot over moderate-high heat and when it’s ready add the prawn shells and the oil and fry until all the shells have turned red. Add the spring onions and 500 ml water and bring to the boil - it will splutter a bit when you first add it. Turn to a simmer, put a lid on, and cook for 15 minutes - this is the stock you use to flavour the rice. Strain it once it’s ready.

Sauté the onion, ginger, garlic and pine nuts in half the olive oil to soften, but don’t colour them. Stir in the goji berries and the rice then add 450 ml of the prawn stock and the fish sauce. Bring to the boil, then place a lid on and turn to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave to sit for 10 minutes, then give it a gentle mix and taste for seasoning. Let the mixture cool down. Cut the prawn tail meat into slices ½ cm thick and stir them in along with the mint. Remove the vine leaves from their jar or sachet and gently squeeze out any excess moisture. If they taste too much of brine, rinse them individually in warm running water. Lay a leaf on a board, vein side facing up, with the pointy tip of the leaf facing away from you.

Take a Tablespoon of the filling and place in the centre of the leaf near the stem edge. Fold this end up and over the filling, then fold both sides towards the middle and roll up like a small cigar. Place on a tray while you roll the remaining dolmas. You can either cook dolmas in a wide pan with a tight-fitting lid, or in the oven in a covered casserole. Lay the 12 remaining vine leaves on the bottom of the pan or the casserole to prevent the dolmas sticking to the dish. Place the dolmas on top, packing them in fairly tight. Slice the lemon and tuck it between the dolmas, then drizzle over the anise liqueur and the remaining olive oil. Put the lid on and either bake at 160°C for 18 minutes, or cook in a pan over a low heat for 13 minutes. Once cool they’re ready to eat.