Sunday, January 11, 2009

dolmades, friends and wine

I’m hiding. I’ve been doing a bit of that lately I must admit.

But right now there is the detritus that comes from having 30 of the SE’s friends/colleagues through the house for a barbecue, to be cleaned up. Having been the sober one to do the lion’s share of the cleaning last night, I reckon I’ve earned a little time out to tap on the keyboard.

While barbecuing en masse is a topic for another post, so too the story of the brand-new-second-hand-barbecue, it is another smaller gathering around the table that demands to be written today.

Back in October I threw up the idea of making dolmades with a few like minded people. There was a lush crop of leaves and surely, I thought, just coordinating three people’s diaries to find an afternoon to roll and sip would be no problem? It took to the New Year til we could all get together, I was a little worried the leaves would be tough by now but went ahead anyway.

So while I hear empty bottles clink in the background, I am going to do a dangerous thing – recount the recipe from memory.

Dolmades, stuffed vine leaves or “ricey-roll ups”* if you prefer, are made in four simple steps.

Prepare the leaves

If making them fresh, the leaves need to be picked and blanched. Soft, tender ones with shallow ‘fingers’ are best. They are blanched for a couple of minutes in boiling water then laid on a tea towel to dry.

You can skip this step and use a jar of preserved vine leaves (in Australia they are available from some deli's and foodstores.)

Cook and flavour the rice

I went back to my old friend Madhur Jaffrey for help. Her sturdy tome has a simple method and handy diagrams to follow. I used her directions to par cook the rice – a cup or two (depending on how many leaves and willing hands you have to roll them) of long grain rice cooked at a rolling boil for 5 minutes, then rinsed and drained.

We made two batches of rice mix. Both contained:
Finely sliced spring onions
Chopped pine nuts
Herbs – parsley and fresh minute also finely chopped
Salt and pepper

One batch had a large squeeze of tomato paste stirred through and the other a pinch of good quality turmeric.

Roll up your sleeves and get rolling

This is where the fun begins. With bowls of filling and another of blanched leaves the four of us sat around the table, a chilled glass of resiling at hand. There was Lucy, Docwitch and her daughter Moon. M is a wee girl, very enthusiastic about creating the ricey parcels and did a great job of wrapping hers in an origami inspired style. The rest of us took a teaspoon or 2 of filling and wrapped and rolled accordingly. We placed sliced of tomato on the bottom layer of my large iron pot, then packed the dolma in tight layers. This is a long process and one best shared with friends and other grape products.

Finally the pot was full; I’d guess there were close to 90 made in the end.

Create the cooking liquid

Whisk together:

1 part lemon juice
2 parts olive oil
4 parts warm water
I tsp sugar
Plus a generous amount of crushed garlic and salt.

Pour the liquid on so they leaves are covered, place a plate on to weight them down, then the lid on top. Simmer for an hour. By the time the cooking was done, heat off/lid on we left the pot while another bottle of wine was consumed.

Verdict – great day, pleasant tasting dolmades but still room for improvement.

Notes for next year:
Leaves a little tough, make earlier in the season
More salt
More herbs, less pine nuts
More tomato paste
More wine!

Docwitch offers M some assistance in rolling the vine leaves

Into the pot, nice and tight

Of course I meant to reshoot this the next day while...err..sober but that never quite happened. A rather haphazard photo but represents the rolling styles of all four of us :)

Can't wait to see Lucy's photos of the day!

Update: Lucy's photos and poetic account is up. Hurrah!

*TM Moon

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Blogger Johanna said...

the dolmades-making sounds like fun - and it is good that you are hearing the clinking of bottles while you hide - just hope it really is the sound of cleaning :-)

5:28 pm  
Blogger Wendy said...

Beautiful! Not going to come across any fresh vine leaves in the north of Scotland but I'm sure Ive seen some for sale somewhere... Rather excited about finding them now!

8:24 pm  
Blogger docwitch said...

Ah...such a wonderful summer afternoon with such fine company! Makes me wonder why I don't do more of this kind of thing. So good.

And don't apologise for the photography - it's 200% better than mine.

10:11 pm  
Anonymous glutenfreeforgood said...

I've never made dolmades. In fact, I've only eaten them a couple times in my life. Hmmm? Wonder why, they look lovely and are something that fits right into my food preferences category.

But, like Wendy, I'm not going to come across any fresh leaves in the high country of Colorado either. I'll keep this recipe for later though!


12:25 am  
Blogger Ran said...

looks good! a bit different froom my mothers arabic recipe (which includes tomatos which i really like) but i like the idea of having more than one person rolling - that is why i never do it myself! my little feldgling vines dont have many leaves at the moment but hopefully next year i will join the rollers

10:57 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

For the non-vine growers you can get jars of preserved leaves, which is what I used to use when I first made them 17 years ago,

Ran - please, please share your tomato-y arabic recipe!!!

Johanna - yes the SE muttered something about an alcohol free day and even a detox on reluctantly waking, I could safely say the clinking involved filling our large green recycling wheelie bin to capacity with empty bottles (they were thirsty art students after all).

Glutenfree/Wendy if you can't find preserved leaves, make more rice filling and use blanched cabbage leaves for a similar, gluten and dairy free experience.

12:01 pm  
Blogger Single White Female said...

I love dolmades!!

So the vine leaves have 'fingers' and the wine has 'legs' and 'body' wonder where the head is??


3:19 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Marvellous fun.

Especially (wish I could make italics work in comments!) the company.

Art students (by which I do, of course mean students of Art rather than arts students). Sheesh. They can drink everyone under the table! Luckily we only imbibed small amounts ourselves during the rolling...hic...enough to trot home on the train happily. Beautiful thing to do. Must do again.

3:26 pm  
Blogger Ran said...

not an exact recipe as i cant get exact recipes from my mum. some of my aunts add some chickpeas to the mix and somtiems currants but i like it the way it is

we normally make stuffed white zucchinis at the same time which go on the bottom of the pot. my white zucc plants are about a week off producing.

there is a meat version too which i dont really like and i guess you wouldnt either!

10:48 am  
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2:35 am  

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