I know what you're thinking. Most of you are probably wondering what this young Asian boy is doing fiddling with these Middle Eastern/Mediterranean treats. Trust me, I was so clueless throughout the entire process that I was wondering the same thing too.
See, I've only had it once before something possessed me to give these a crack at home. You don't see stuffed vine leaves anywhere in Malaysia. My colleague had brought some that her Mum made to share in the office. It tasted so interesting and I really enjoyed them. It's been a while since I've experimented in the kitchen so I asked if she could help get me some vine leaves so I can make them at home too. I was definitely nervous about making them because cuisines from that region are really, really unfamiliar territory to me. But I'm glad I tried them out because they were much simpler than I thought and turned out quite tasty. They were actually quite quick and easy to roll. It was only that there was a lot of them to do, so make sure you trick someone in your family to helping you at it too.
Decided to add pine nuts as well to give the filling a bit of crunch, which ended up working really well. Love the colours from the filling!
Dolmades reminds me a lot of dumplings. They're prevalent in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures; just as dumplings are to people with an Oriental heritage. The exact origins of both dishes are highly debatable but who the hell cares, they're tasty and that's all that matters to it.
The Internet recently taught me that "Dolma", actually means "to stuff with" and is almost a category of food on its own. Because it's so common in many people's homes and cultures, there's so many variations to this dish. You can get them with different types of vegetables stuffed (zucchini, peppers, cabbage, etc); with or without meat in filling; tomato or cream sauce or no sauce at all; the list goes on…
Personally, I love to keep these simple and vegetarian (stuffed with flavoured rice only). It has so much taste and flavour, but not heavy and more enjoyable because it doesn't have meat in them. Plus, I didn't want to have meat in them so I can share it with my vego friends too. This is a version that I enjoy but you can make it whichever way you want! I had lots of fun making this and definitely recommend people try it too to share with other friends and family =)
Dolmades (Dill and Mint Stuffed Vine Leaves)
500g vine leaves *
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions (finely diced)
1 cup rice6 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 cup or 150g pine nuts
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried mint
1/2 cup fresh dill (chopped)
1 1/2 to 2 litres stock (chicken or vegetable)
Lemons (to serve)
* Can be fresh, dried or vacuum packed in brine. Available at Mediterranean or Middle Eastern wholesalers
1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Place the vine leaves in a pot and boil for 5 minutes. Remove vine leaves and place in a large bowl of cold water to cool.
2. Heat up a small frying pan. Fry the onions in the olive oil until it becomes fragrant and translucent.
3. Remove onions from pan and place in a large bowl. Mix in all the remaining ingredients except the stock and lemon.
4. Place a piece of vine leaf on the plate with the spine of the leaf pointing away from you. Place a scoop of filling horizontally in a line near the bottom of the leaf. Roll the bottom, fold the sides, roll again until filling is wrapped tight. Repeat until all leaves and filling are used up. (You can check out a video of the process: here)
Tip: You may layer 2 or 3 vine leaves on top of one another to form a larger sheet if you find that some leaves to be too small or have holes.
5. Place all the vine leaves, seams down, tightly together at the bottom of a pot. Place a heavy plate at the top of the stack to hold it down tightly. Add extra weights, if possible.
6. Place the stock in the pot until all dolmades is submerged in liquid. Simmer for 50 minutes. Top up with more stock or water if necessary. Remove from pot and squeeze generously with lemons just before serving.