All Wrapped Up
Like kale and spinach, vine leaves are part of the dark green vegetable group that has become highly popular with nutritionists these past few years. Packed with vitamins and minerals, rich in vitamins A and K, calcium and iron, helping cell development and blood circulation, giving our body a boost of youth and rejuvenation!
Start incorporating them in your diet by getting some fresh grape vine leaves to preserve in order to have your yearly stock. You can also use good quality vine leaves preserved in brine, which you will find all year round.
This iconic dish I am posting today, has found its place in every corner of the East, from Turkey and Central Asia to the Middle East, the Balkans and Russia.
In the Aegean, they use mincemeat, beans, or even sardines for a filling, whereas in Greece, the most common and loved variation is this vegan dolma you will see below. This is a dish known since antiquity as “fyllas”, from the greek word fyllon that means leaf. It takes some time and practice to learn how to fold the vine leaves.
The result is a dish you can enjoy both warm and cold.
I love the ever so slight resistance of the vine leaf “cover” to the bite, followed by a juicy, creamy and mouthwatering filling of soft rice, paired with black currants, pine nuts and fresh olive oil. Make sure to be generous, with top quality olive oil, as it binds everything together while cooking and enhances the nutty, earthy flavor of the dish. The olive oil also preserves, your dolmadakia keep in the refrigerator for quite a couple of weeks.
Dolmadakia – Vine Leaves Stuffed with Rice
200 g grapevine leaves, fresh (or those preserved in brine)
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh spring onions, finely chopped
½ cup shallots, finely chopped
1½ cup long grain white rice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
sea salt, to taste
pepper, freshly ground, to taste
½ cup dried black currants, soaked in white wine
½ cup white wine
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
½ cup dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup Greek yogurt
1. If you have fresh grapevine leaves, soften them in boiling salted water. When soft, drain and rinse under cold running water. If using the preserved variety of grapevine leaves, soak the leaves thoroughly in a few changes of water to remove the brine. In either case, cut away the stalks of the leaves.
2. For the stuffing: Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the spring onions and shallots. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the rice, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper. Stir for 1 minute. Add the pine nuts, drained currants and 1 cup of warm water. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Mix in the parsley, dill and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely.
3. Lay one of the vine leaves on a flat surface and spoon some stuffing in the middle of the leaf. Pull the leaf over the filling, fold in the sides, then roll into a tight log (try not to over fill, as the filling may ooze out). Arrange the vine leaves, seam side down, in a deep and wide, stove-top pan. Pack them tightly together, layer by layer.
4. In a small bowl mix the remaining ½ cup of olive oil with the lemon juice and vegetable stock. Drizzle the mixture over the stuffed vine leaves and add a grinding of black pepper and salt.
5. Cover and simmer over a medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
Uncover and let the stuffed vine leaves cool. Transfer to platter. Cover and chill.
6. Serve with a heaping spoonful of yogurt on the side.