One the boldest (read weirdest) views I hold is anything that involves meat being stuffed or wrapped in something in a sausage shape, makes it a sausage. Actually, it doesn’t even need to be wrapped, if it’s in a sausage shape, it’s pretty much a sausage. So what do you get when you take rice, meat, herbs and seasoning then wrap vine leaves round it? You get dolmádes, and you get sausages. You bloody do!
Greek people, stop reading now, you are probably going to hate this. This isn’t going to be a traditional recipe for dolmádes. I am taking your recipe and desecrating it. Lord Elgin stole your marbles; I’m stealing your dolmádes.
However, if I am going to make an arse of a classic recipe, it has to be really good. I need to make these dolmádes bursting with flavour (not out the vine leaves).
There are two challenges facing me in this venture:
Challenge Number 1: where the hell do I get vine leaves, Google? (Other search engines are available – but no one knows what they are). Turns out, you can get them in Asda (Other quality supermarkets are available). This is handy for me as there is an Asda round the corner from where I work and they are very cheap - £1.34 for a large jar.
Challenge Number 2: I’ve never made dolmádes before now. I can’t even fold a burrito never mind dolmádes.
OK, so I have sourced vine leaves and I’m going to wing it on the folding. I need to work out what recipe I am going to use for the stuffing. Traditional dolmádes are more rice-based with a little bit of meat but I’m going for meat-based with a little bit of rice so that I can boost the sausage credentials of my dolmádes. I’m going to go for a flavourful stuffing containing lamb mince, cinnamon, oregano, red wine, aubergine, tomato and a little bit of rice. This is quite different from any dolmádes that I have tried before.
Ingredients (makes around 25-30 so scale down if you want less)
500g Lamb mince
½ an onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp of dried oregano
¼ cup of red wine
1 tbsp of tomato puree
½ an aubergine finely diced
¼ cup of rice
Olive oil for frying and a bit more for later
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
400g jar (drained weight) of vine leaves - you won’t need all of them but it’s good to have them there if you make a mess of your first few [dozen] attempts at rolling them.
First of all you’ll need to cook the rice, but while that is happening you can rinse the vine leaves in a colander. Once the rice is cooked drain it and place to the side for later. Try to undercook the rice slightly as it will also be cooked when it is inside the vine leaves.
Next heat some olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion for a few minutes, and then add the garlic and aubergine – fry until the aubergine is brown and really tender.
Add the lamb into the pan and make sure all of it is browned. Stir in the cinnamon, oregano, red wine, tomato puree and seasoning and cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
In a mixing bowl combine the rice and the lamb/aubergine mix. Let it cool for a while. Your stuffing is now ready to go.
Now for the hard part; stuffing the vine leaves. The method isn’t complicated but it is a little tricky at first. Place the leaf on a plate or other flat surface. Take a spoonful of the stuffing and place it in the centre of the leaf. Fold the bottom part of the leaf up over the mixture, then fold the sides in over into the middle and roll towards the top tightly into a cigar...ahem..."sausage" shape. See the images below for the folding process. Then repeat until you have used all of your stuffing. It’s not actually that difficult, I was being overdramatic…
Line a pot with some of the unused vine leaves – this will stop the dolmádes burning and sticky to the bottom of the pot. Then place all of the parcels into the pot, seam side down. Try to pack them quite close together to stop them from unravelling during cooking. Once all of them are in the pot pour in enough water to cover them, add a liberal squeeze of lemon juice and a couple of glugs of olive oil. Cover the dolmádes with a plate to stop them floating about then bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat a simmer for around 30 minutes. Once cooked, remove all your little parcels from the pot and leave them to cool down. While they cool strut about your kitchen like a champ because you have just made dolmádes (or a sacrilegious variant thereof). I recommend serving them while still slightly warm as it suits the meatier stuffing of this recipe.
Καλή όρεξη! (Kalí órexi!)