Thursday, November 26, 2009

spring dolmades

All the recent heat and rain has sent the garden into a frenzy. The parsley has gone to seed, there are more tomatoes self-seeded than I can find homes for, the super hot chillies are flowering, there is a bonanza of spring onions and the cos lettuces have bolted skywards and need devouring.

Each spring I anxiously wait for the first signs of the grapevine coming out of hibernation. This year the leaves are lush and it is fruiting once more. How it survived last year’s heat, I do not know.

I vowed to make dolmades while the leaves were young and soft this year and as luck would have it the date we set coincided with gentle weather after a weekend of rain.

Once more Lucy and I collaborated, devised a new recipe and spent a pleasant afternoon rolling and sipping chilled fino.

Taking on board last years experience we started afresh with our filling. I watched this great video which I’d recommend all first or even third time dolmades makers view. It has great tips and techniques, especially if you just want to make a small batch. Update December 2009 - this video no longer seems to be available.

If you don’t have access to vine leaves, keep reading, there are lots of great alternatives for your flavoured ricey parcels of deliciousness.

The recipe below makes a lot of filling. If you are just doing one layer in a fry pan, divide by about a quarter. This quantity easily filled many layers in a large Le Creuset Dutch oven. I found my last tub of summer’s roasted tomato and garlic pasata and almost swooned when I defrosted it. There are some good, organic tomato pasata’s around (without the garlic) that would make an acceptable substitute. Quantities are approximate, just use the recipe as a guide for flavours.

Dolmades spring 2009

Lots of medium to large sized young vine leaves or other green vegetable leaves (eg: chard/silverbeet, lettuce, cabbage)

1 cup long grain rice, cooked in boiling water for 5 minutes, run under cold water and drain
1 onion finely diced, cooked low and slow in olive oil til translucent
3-4 tablespoons tomato pasata or similar (I used some of last summers roasted tomato and garlic puree)
1/2 - 1 tsp allspice
Handful of parsley, chopped
Handful of almonds, chopped (small chunks but not blitzed to breadcrumbs)
Salt (it always needs a little more than you think – start with a generous teaspoon then taste)

Simmering liquid
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups warm water
4 cloves garlic, crushed

Boil the rice, rinse well under cool water and drain. Chop and mix through the remaining ingredients for the stuffing.

Gather your leaves and dunk in boiling water til softened. Depending on the type of leaf it might take anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Drain on tea towels.

Roll the dolmades, use the video link above as a guide if you don’t know how to do it. Place in either a heavy based large pot or fry pan with a lid and arrange the dolmades snugly together. It’s a good idea to line the pot first with a few extra leaves. If making a large batch, you can place more leaves between the layers. Top with more leaves or a disc of waxed paper cut to size to cover the dolmades.

Whisk together the simmering liquid and pour over the dolmades.

Add an upturned plate to weight down the dolmades, cover pot with a lid and simmer on low for about 1 hour.

The verdict

So the mystery wrapper we tried out for our top layer was the abundant Cos from the garden. It cooked quickly, needing only 30 seconds. Squish the thick spine at the base with your hand or the back of a spoon to help them roll more easily. The leaves seemed very fragile and soft and to be honest we weren’t sure they’d stay together through the long simmering.

But, oh boy – the cos lettuce dolma rocked!

Cos makes a great alternative to vine leaves, so give it a go.

This years filling was perfect. The onion was subtle, so too the roasted garlic in the pasata. Lucy’s stroke of genius, the almonds, were perfect both texturally and taste-wise and much nicer than pinenuts. So too her magic sprinkle of allspice.

Enjoy the fruits of the seasons.

Are you rolling any other kinds of leaves?

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Anonymous Em said...

they look amazing! Well done.

10:03 am  
Blogger Lucy said...

Perfection - so glad you blogged the recipe. My pics are back tomorrow!

I think a bit more allspice next time, p'raps cooked with the onion. And yes to more salt.

Using the really tough outer cos leaves that otherwise end up in the compost is ideal.
And now I am keen to track down apricot leaves. Those Georgians really know how to cook.

7:15 pm  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh yum. YUM. They're so beautiful, too.

12:29 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

They certainly were yum and I swear I'll make another batch with the cos before it's too late! If the lettuce can just hang in there a couple of weeks, I'll be a good little sister and have them waiting for when my vego sister arrives before xmas.

12:39 pm  

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