Dolmades are the Greek version of stuffed vine leaves, a dish which is found widespread across the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Inevitably there are many variations and a variety of ingredients and flavourings. This vegan recipe is fairly classic, using a stuffing of rice and black olives with Mediterranean herbs.
I have a grape vine growing over an arch at the bottom of my small garden. The last couple of years it has grown madly, and regardless of how hard I cut it back, it always regrows with amazing vigour. Even here in the UK, it produces bunches of very small but sweet and juicy grapes, which is a bonus, as I grow the vine mainly to create a canopy of dappled shade in the summer.
So, I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while; making Dolmades from scratch, using freshly picked vine leaves. However, you can find packs of vine leaves that have been preserved in brine, in certain stores, such as delicatessens.
There’s a bit of faff involved, but I think it’s worth it, particularly with the right flavourings.
The thing that surprised me….probably because I’d never really thought about it, is that Dolmades are made with uncooked rice, and the rice cooks once the Dolmades have been made, rather than stuffing the Dolmades with rice that has been pre-cooked…. so the rice really absorbs the flavours as it cooks….
and in this recipe, mint and lemon juice play leading roles.
Dolmades are just incredibly moreish…they really are 🙂
…and they transport me straight to a little taverna on a quiet beach in Greece…heavenly…
Hope you enjoy!
makes 22-24 individual Dolma
- 24 vine leaves
- bunch of spring onions: approx. 150gms.
- 120gms. white basmati rice
- approx. 15 gms. fresh herbs: mint (a priority) + parsley, oregano, basil, dill
- 100gms. pitted black olives (preserved in brine rather than oil)
- 20gms. pine nuts
- juice 1 lemon
- 0.5 tsp. salt
- 0.5 tsp. ground black pepper
- 300ml. water
- 4 tbs.olive oil
- extra salt and pepper and chopped parsley to scatter
To prepare fresh vine leaves: (if using)
- Take 24 nice-looking, hole-free leaves of medium size, and younger rather than older.
- Carefully remove the stalks at the base.
- Spread the leaves in layers, in a deep-sided wide pan and then amply cover in just-boiled water.
- Allow the leaves to sit in the boiled water for 5 mins. and then remove.
- Place the leaves in a pile on a plate lined with kitchen towel, and set aside, allowing them to cool.
Prepare the stuffing:
- Wash, trim, and finely slice spring onions.
- In a fine strainer, rinse the rice, and then shake away excess liquid.
- Wash herbs, remove and discard any tough stalks, and then finely chop the herbs.
- Rinse olives and then roughly chop.
- Place a wide pan on a medium heat and add 2 tbs. olive oil.
- When hot, add chopped spring onions and sauté for 3 mins.
- Add rinsed rice, and sauté for 1 min.
- Switch off heat and add chopped olives, chopped herbs, pine nuts, salt and pepper.
- Stir thoroughly to combine.
- Allow to cool for 10-15 mins. until handleable.
Make + Cook Dolmades:
- Take 1 blanched vine leaf and place vein-side up.
- Place 1-2 tsps. of the stuffing near the base of the leaf.
- Fold in the sides of the leaf over the stuffing, and then roll up the leaf from bottom to top.
- Place the rolled leaf to one side so it sits on the last part of the roll, and doesn’t unfurl…
- Repeat with all leaves until all the stuffing has gone. Should make 22-24?
- Take a wide pan with a tight-fitting lid and arrange the dolmades in the pan so they sit closely next to each other.
- Pour the juice of 1 lemon evenly over the dolmades.
- Pour 2 tbs. olive oil evenly over the dolmades.
- Scatter a pinch of salt and a few twists of ground black pepper, and a little chopped parsley.
- Pour 300 ml. water carefully into the pan at the side, so the dolmades are sitting in water but are not completely covered.
- Place a plate over the dolmades to stop them coming adrift or moving during cooking.
- Place the pan on a medium-high heat and bring to the boil.
- Then cover, reduce heat to minimum, (I used a heat diffuser) and simmer very gently for 60-70mins., until all the water has been just absorbed during the cooking of the rice. Don’t let them dry out completely.
- Remove from heat, and allow to cool.
Serve with lemon wedges, olives, salad, fresh bread and maybe a glass of white wine?
As you fancy.
To store, place in tupperware or a glass dish, drizzle with a little oil and lemon juice and cover with an airtight lid. They will keep for a couple of days.