I made dolmades as part of my Greek Cypriot Meze. Of all the dishes that I made for that meal, this is the one that takes the longest to prepare.
Dolmades are stuffed vine (grape) leaves – also called koupepia. A fair few Greek dishes are labour intensive – I’m sure it was a ruse by Greek men to keep women in the kitchen!! These are a labour of love to make and we love ’em! They’re made by rolling a stuffing of pork mince and rice in vine leaves, then boiled with a tomato stock. They can be eaten hot or cold. Mine passed the ‘dad taste test’ so I know they’re good!
I prepared these a little differently this time around to how I normally make them. I would stuff the vine leaves with a raw mixture, but my dad said that the last time he was in Cyprus his auntie made them by cooking the stuffing first. I didn’t notice much difference in the flavour – the bonus being you can test the meat seasoning first before stuffing the vine leaves!
How To Make Dolmades - Stuffed Vine Leaves
1 white onion, finely chopped
750g pork mince
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp dried mint
small (30g) bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
juice of one lemon
120g uncooked rice
450g packet vine leaves
salt + freshly ground black pepper.
For the sauce
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 vegetable stock cube
Vine leaves come packed in brine, so it's best to rinse them off first. Keep them soaking in water whilst you make the dolmades to keep them pliable.
To make the filling, gently sweat the onions in a pan with some olive oil until softened. Remove from the pan and put into a large bowl to one side.
Turn up the heat, and in the same pan, brown the pork mince. Season with the cinnamon, coriander, mint, salt and pepper.
Add the browned meat to the onions and allow to cool for about five minutes, then stir in the parsley, lemon juice and uncooked rice. Mix together well.
To roll up your dolmades, take a vine leaf and lay down on a board. Cut off the stalk if there is one attached. There is a shiny side and a dull side. It doesn't matter which side you use. Depending on the size of the leaf add a spoonful of mixture towards the bottom edge - it could be a teaspoonful, it could be a dessertspoonful!
Fold over the bottom edges of the leaf over the mixture and then bring in the sides, trying to hold everything together tightly, then start wrapping and rolling away from you, until there is no leaf left. You may find that the mixture bursts out a little, but you can normally patch it up as you roll. You may also find some dud vine leaves - just put a couple together to roll up with. I've made a short video to demonstrate how to make them...and if you can't watch the video, there's also a step-by-step guide to look at. The more you make, the easier it will become!
Keep rolling dolmades until you run out of vine leaves or stuffing. I made around 60. If you have any mixture left over, cut a 'lid' from a couple of tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and stuff in the pork and rice mixture. Add to the pan to cook.
The dolmades are cooked further (don't forget the raw rice in them!) by cooking in a tomato sauce. You need a heavy based pan to cook them in, and as you roll each one, place them around the edge of the pan first, and then continue inwards in a circular pattern as you can see in the image below. Once you have filled one layer, repeat again. You want to place them with the seam side down and pack them in quite tightly so that they don't unroll during cookingTo make the sauce, pour the tinned tomatoes into a jug, fill up the tin with water and add that, along with the tomato puree and the crumbled up stock cube. Give it a stir and then pour over the dolmades. You want the liquid to cover them completely. If it doesn't, add more water.
To really make sure that they don't unfurl you then need to put a plate on top of them, weighing it down with something heavy. I used my giant mug and an old can filled with water! Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes. The liquid will all be soaked up. Serve straight from the pan, or arrange in a suitable dish.
Dolmades can be eaten both hot and cold. Any leftovers are fine for the next day. I personally don't reheat them because they have rice in them.