Dolmas, or Dolmades, are little parcels wrapped in grape vine leaves and simmered until the filling is cooked and the vine leaves are tender. Although there is always a rush to make them in Spring as the vine leaves appear, they can be cooked right through to Autumn. Indeed, if you are diligent enough to freeze or preserve vine leaves, they can also be made in Winter. Of course, if home preserving is not your thing, you can always purchase preserved vine leaves (I’ve seen large jars of them). The leaves can be stuffed with many things, but rice, burghul, or a mix of the two, are common.
These dolmas are stuffed with burghul (bulgar, or cracked wheat) and rice in a typically Middle Eastern version with currants and pine nuts. They are delicious. Serve with lemon wedges.
Stuffed Vine Leaves | Dolmades
vine leaves, about 50-60
1 white onion, finely chopped
250 ml olive oil
0.66 cup burghul (2/3 cup) –
0.66 cup rice
3 Tblspn mint, finely chopped
1 Tblspn dill, finely chopped
0.5 tspn cinnamon powder
1 tspn Golpar Powder, and 1 tspn Vine Leaf Powder (both optional)
sea salt and black pepper
2 – 3 Tblspn currants
2 Tblspn pine nuts, toasted
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup water
prepare the vine leaves
If using fresh vine leaves, rinse them well. Remove the tough stalk from each one by cutting a small “V” at the base of each leaf, and blanch them for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse again in cold water and drain again.
If using preserved vine leaves, rinse them carefully and drain. Remove the tough stalks if they are still attached.
make the filling
Saute the onion in 2 Tblspn olive oil until golden brown. Add the rice and burghul and saute for 2 minutes more.
Stir in the herbs, cinnamon powder, golpar and vine leaf powder (if using), sea salt, black pepper and currants. Add 1.25 – 1.5 cup of water, cover tightly and cook over low heat until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 mins.
Remove from the heat, stir in the toasted pine nuts and leave aside to cool.
to make and cook the dolmades
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 seam edge of the leaf underneath, to prevent it unravelling while cooking. If making more than one layer of dolmades, separate each layer with a layer of vine leaves and sprinkle each layer generously with olive oil and lemon juice.
Cover the rolls with some lemon slices and another layer of leaves.
When all the rolls are in the pan, weigh them down with a plate (otherwise they will float and unwrap themselves). Then pour in the remaining olive oil and lemon juice, and enough boiling water to just cover the rolls .
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down, cover and simmer very gently for 30 – 40 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. They are best left for a couple of hours in the fridge for the flavours to develop but can be eaten warm.
Serve as part of a mezze, with a little plain yoghurt, or a lemon and caper yoghurt sauce (use this recipe and add chopped capers).
recipe notes and alternatives
I love to use the burghul mixed with toasted rishteh noodles (Middle Eastern vermicelli) – it is available from Middle Eastern and Afghan stores.
You can also make this dish with cabbage leaves or chard/spinach leaves.