Grape Leaves Dolma is a favorite appetizer throughout the Middle East. These delicious stuffed grape leaves are an example of the influence of Greece on Turkish cuisine.
Grape Leaves Dolma Recipe-
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 oz. lean ground lamb meat
- 1 small white or yellow onion, peeled and chopped fine
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
- 1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cup uncooked long-grain rice
- 1-1/2 cups lamb broth
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tbsp. dill leaves, chopped fine
- 1 tsp. dried mint leaves, crushed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
- 8 oz. jarred grape leaves, rinsed and drained
- Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a lively simmer. Blanch the grape leaves in the hot water for 5 minutes, or until they are pliable.
- Drain the leaves, trim the stems and any hard veins off of the leaves. Lay the leaves on paper towels and pat them dry with additional paper towels.
- Now make the filling. Coat a large sauté skillet with 1/4 cup of the oil and place on the burner over medium flame. Add in the fennel, lemon zest, garlic and onion, and stir until soft and fragrant, about 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add in the ground lamb, breaking it apart into tiny bits with your hands. Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, stirring and breaking up the meat constantly, until the meat is well browned all over.
- Add and stir in the rice and pine nuts; sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring continuously and making sure the rice and nuts are getting well coated.
- Pour 1/2 cup of the lamb stock into the skillet, and adjust the flame down to just a lively simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the liquid is all absorbed and the rice is al dente. Scrape the partially boiled seasoned rice and nuts mixture into a mixing bowl and then add in the parsley, mint, and the dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside for a few minutes, allowing the mixture to cool down to where you can handle it.
- To assemble, lay a grape leaf opened fully flat on a clean flat work surface, shiny-side down. Put 2 tablespoons of the rice/meat/nuts filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle. Keep rolling until you have it shaped like a cigar. You want the “cigars” to be nice and snug, but not overly tight – this is because the rice will tend to swell during the final cooking. So allow for that swelling, and, when the cigars are rolled up, squeezed them gently in the palm of your hand – this will secure and seal the roll.
- Repeat step 6 with remaining grape leaves and filling.
- Place the assembled rolls in a deep and wide skillet, or a large Dutch oven. Lay them in with the seam-side down, and side by side in a single layer. Pour the rest of broth and the olive oil, and the lemon juice over the rolls. You want the liquid to reach halfway up the sides of the rolls, so add some water if necessary.
- Place a heavy plate or platter on top of the rolls, to ensure they remain sealed. Put the lid on the skillet or Dutch oven and cook at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. You will know they are done cooking and fully tender when you can easily pierce the rolls with a toothpick.
- Serve your Grape Leaves Dolma warm, at room temperature, or some prefer them chilled in the refrigerator before serving.
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