What we call stuffed vine leaves, dolma, in the UK are thought of as wrapped vine leaves, sarma, in Turkey. Dolma is only used as a term to describe things which are stuffed in Turkish-like hollowed out courgettes (zucchini) or tomatoes, or even stuffed squid. Whatever you’d like to call them, these vine leaves, filled with bright red, slightly fiery burghul (bulgur) wheat, are delicious. They are also easy to assemble.
Skill level Mid
250 g (9 oz) pack preserved vine leaves
150 g (5 oz/scant 1 cup) burghul (bulgur) wheat
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp Turkish hot red pepper paste, or 1 very finely chopped red (bell) pepper plus chilli flakes to taste
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
plain Turkish or Greek-style yoghurt, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Vine leaves can be very salty, so be sure to rinse and blanch them. You can also make this dish with just-blanched chard leaves.
Remove the vine leaves from their packet and rinse under cold running water. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Slide the vine leaves into the water and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse again in cold water and drain again.
Put the burghul wheat in a bowl. Just cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes, until partially softened. Drain, if necessary, and fluff up with a fork.
Meanwhile, soften the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 5–10 minutes, stirring, over a low heat until translucent. Then add the red pepper paste, or chopped pepper and chilli flakes, to taste. Cook very gently until pulpy; 5 minutes if using the paste, 10 minutes if using fresh peppers. Add the pomegranate molasses, stir and then add the soaked burghul. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Add the parsley.
To stuff the leaves, place a whole, intact leaf on a flat surface with the stem end facing towards you. Remove the stem. Place about 1 tablespoon of the burghul mixture in the middle of the leaf, just above where the stem was. Lift the bottom sections of the leaf up and over the filling, then bring the side edges in over it too. Roll the leaf away from you, folding and catching the edges of the leaf neatly into the roll as you go. When you have rolled the whole leaf up, all the edges should be tucked in to the roll and no filling should be visible. Repeat with more leaves and filling (you should be able to make at least 30 and have a few small or damaged leaves left over).
Use any damaged or particularly small leaves to line the base of a large saucepan or flameproof casserole with a lid. Tightly pack the rolls into the pan, each with the loose edge of the leaf underneath, to prevent it unraveling while cooking. When all the rolls are in the pan, weigh them down with a plate (otherwise they will float and unwrap themselves). Then pour in enough boiling water to just cover the rolls.
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down, cover and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. When the rolls have cooked and with the plate still in place, carefully drain the water away. Using tongs, remove the rolls from the pan and transfer to a plate to cool. Serve cold as part of a meze, with a little plain yoghurt.
Istanbul: Recipes From the Heart of Turkey, Rebecca Seal (Hardie Grant, $45, hbk)