Today we have a variety of Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), of which there are many types across the Mediterranean and Middle East. This Turkish recipe uses Burghul, which forms a bright red and a little firey stuffing for the vine leaves. I like to use a type of Burghul available in Middle Eastern grocers, where burghul is mixed with vermicelli. Its a delicious alternative.
Use fresh vine leaves (my preference) or preserved vine leaves, but rinse the preserved ones well to get rid of any saltiness.
The recipe, which I have altered a little, comes via the SBS site which credits the book Istanbul: Recipes From the Heart of Turkey, by Rebecca Seal, for the original. Vine leaves can be stuffed with a number of fillings, but rice and burghul are the most common. The vine leaves are wrapped around the filling, and the little fat cigar-shaped dolmas are simmered in water, olive oil and lemon until the vine leaves are tender. In Turkey they are often served for mezze with yoghurt.
Spiced Burghul Wrapped in Vine Leaves | Yaprak Sarma
200g vine leaves – you will need around 40 – 50 leaves
150 g (scant 1 cup) burghul (bulgur) wheat
1 onion, finely chopped
2 Tblspn Turkish hot red pepper paste
1 tspn pomegranate molasses
2 Tblspn flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Tblspn mint, finely chopped
1 Tblspn dill, finely chopped
2 tspn Grape Vine Leaf Powder (optional)
plain Turkish, Indian or Greek-style yoghurt, to serve
Blanch the vine leaves for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse again in cold water and drain again.
Put the burghul wheat in a bowl. Just cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes, until partially softened. Drain, if necessary, and fluff up with a fork.
Meanwhile, soften the onion in 1 Tblspn of olive oil for 5–10 minutes, stirring, over a low heat until translucent. Then add the red pepper paste, to taste. Cook very gently for 5 mins until pulpy.
Add the pomegranate molasses, stir and then add the soaked burghul. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Add the parsley, dill and mint.
To stuff the leaves, place a whole, intact leaf on a flat surface with the stem end facing towards you. Remove the stem. Place about 1 tablespoon of the burghul mixture in the middle of the leaf, just above where the stem was. Lift the bottom sections of the leaf up and over the filling, then bring the side edges in over it too. Roll the leaf away from you, folding and catching the edges of the leaf neatly into the roll as you go. When you have rolled the whole leaf up, all the edges should be tucked in to the roll and no filling should be visible. Repeat with more leaves and filling (you should be able to make at least 30 and have a few small or damaged leaves left over).
Use any damaged or particularly small leaves to line the base of a large saucepan or flameproof casserole with a lid. Tightly pack the rolls into the pan, each with the loose edge of the leaf underneath, to prevent it unraveling while cooking. Cover the rolls with some lemon slices.
When all the rolls are in the pan, weigh them down with a plate (otherwise they will float and unwrap themselves). Then pour in enough boiling water to just cover the rolls and add a good glug of olive oil .
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down, cover and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. The actual time will depend on your leaves – the older ones will take longer. When the rolls have cooked and with the plate still in place, carefully drain the water away. Using tongs, remove the rolls from the pan and transfer to a plate to cool. Serve cold as part of a mezze, with a little plain yoghurt. They can be eaten warm.
recipe notes and alternatives
I love to use the combination of burghul and vermicelli, which is available at Middle Eastern and Afghan grocers.
If you don’t have the Turkish Pepper Paste, use 1 very finely chopped red capsicum with chilli flakes to taste. Cook them for 10 minutes rather than 5.
You can also make this dish with cabbage leaves or chard/spinach leaves.