Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

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George’s grandmother was here visiting us. And this dish is her specialty. I have been meaning to learn how to make this dish properly from Kalliope, but it is quite a time-consuming dish to make. It requires a lot of patience, but the results are definitely worth it. Her version is simply stuffed with a mixture of rice, dill, spring onions and after rolling them (video included!) you braise them in a mix of lemon juice, water and olive oil.
This is a quintessentially Greek dish, and its not everyone’s cup of tea. But I have to say that this version sealed the deal for me. Serve it with a dollop of yogurt, or tzatziki, or you can even try my Greek Feta and Yogurt Dip!
What is essential to this dish are the vine leaves. You can find them in jars from specialty stores – check out my shops and ingredients page for more details about an online shop that delivers to everywhere! If you can find them fresh, then lucky you! But they need to be poached in salted boiling water for a few minutes before we can start assembling the dolmadakia. The ones you find in jars are already prepared and usually preserved in brine. So they need to be rinsed and dried before we can start with the assembly.
Ingredients:
  • About 100 vine leaves, prepared, rinsed and dried.
  • 500g of ‘nyxaki’ rice (any normal long grain rice would do.), cleaned – rinse rice until water runs clear.
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 1 big white onion, chopped into fine cubes
  • 15-20 spring onions, chopped fine including the green tops
  • 2 large handfuls of dill, chopped fine
  • 1 handful of parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 tbsps of fresh spearmint, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Lemon juice, from 3 lemons.
  • Water
Preparation:
  1. Sort out the vine leaves – keep the small ones and the very big ones should be kept aside. We can use them to line the bottom of the pot when we braise the dolmadakia.
  2. Now to prepare the filling. In a big pot, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Saute the white onions until translucent.
  4. Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice grains with oil. Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil to help you with this. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure that it doesn’t burn. Cook for a minute or 2.
  5. Add the spring onions, dill, parsley and mint and mix.
  6. Add half of the lemon juice and 1 cup of warm water into the pot and stir.
  7. Add half of what is left of the olive oil into the pot too. Season with salt and pepper, generously. Cook until the water has been absorbed, stirring continuously to ensure it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pot.
  8. Take off the heat, and leave to cool slightly.
  9. Now, assembly time!
    • How to assemble a dolma: Make sure your table is prepared – a plate big enough so you can fold the leaves with ease, small teaspoons, a big flat bowl to hold the folded dolma, and of course the filling and the vine leaves!
    • Arrange the vine leaf with the pointy end towards you. Add a small amount of filling right at the centre as shown in the video below, and follow what I do! Don’t roll them up too tight, give the rice some space to expand.
  10.  When you have finished folding all of the vine leaves (you may have extra leaves), use the big vine leaves you set aside earlier to line the bottom of a big pot. The pot should ideally be short but big in diameter. But any big pot would do.dolmadakia06
  11.  Arrange the folded dolma in the pot, with the folded seam at the bottom. Fit in as many dolma as you can in one layer, and make sure they are packed in snuggly, but not too tight. Once done with one layer, arrange another layer on top of the first one, until you run out of stuffed vine leaves.dolmadakia07
  12. Once all are arranged in the pot, in a big bowl, mix the rest of the lemon juice and olive oil with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Add a pinch of salt to the water mix and gently pour it over the dolma. Add more water until you slightly cover the rolls (just to the top).
  13. Place a heatproof plate on top of the final layer, to prevent the dolma to unfold while cooking. The pressure of the plate will make the dolma stay still during cooking. Cover with the pot lid.dolmadakia08
  14. Gently braise it for 40-45 minutes on medium low heat, until the leaves are tender and the rice is cooked. The steam should help cook the rice mixture.
  15. Once done, gently remove them from pot and serve!

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