Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stuffed vine leaves (Sarma or Dolmades gialantzi)

Stuffed grape leaves are popular dish across the Balkans. Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece - every one of these countries has own variety concerning the stuffing mixture. The two main categories concern the stuffing, which could be meat mixture or rice mixture. The meat varieties are eaten warm and the vegetarian ones - at room temperature. In Bulgaria this dish is called sarma or sarmi, which has Turkish origins - sarmak means 'to wrap' in Turkish. 

In Greece dolmades are part of the Meze platter, in Bulgaria Sarmi is a main dish. The stuffing includes different ingredients - rice, minced meat, pine nuts, raisins, mint and some others. The following recipe is a vegetarian version which includes lemon juice and mint. It could be served cold or warm and is good either ways.  In late spring and summer you can find fresh vine leaves, which should be first boiled for 5 minutes into a salted water.  Choose grape leaves that have very thin veins, which will make the taste less stringy. In February on the Balkans you can only use preserved vine leaves. So did I. This dish reminds me of summer, it is light and tasty. My only regret was I did not prepare twice as much.

Ingredients:
  • 25 preserved vine leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 100 g rice
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp mint
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preparation:
Prepare the stuffing. Sautee onion for 10 minutes with the olive oil until soft. Add rice, cook 2-3 minutes and add the water, mint, salt and pepper. Cook until rice has absorbed most of  the water. 

Stuff the leaves. Take preserved vine leaves of the package, drain and place on an even surface glossy side down. Spread each vine leave vein side up and spoon a teaspoon of the mixture close to the stalk end of the leaf and fold tightly into a cigar shape. Place some vine leaves on the bottom of the pot to prevent burning of dolmades to the pan and place the parcels above in two or three layers, depending on the size of the pan. Arrange them as closely as possible to be sure they will not unwrap while cooking. Squeeze the lemon juice, add the hot water and place a plate over the stuffed vine leaves to keep them in place. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer very gently for 30 minutes until the leaves get tender. Remove the top plate and carefully move to a serving platter. Enjoy with some joghurt.

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