Stuffed grape leaves with minced meat and rice

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Oh I always adored these little wraps…to the point that I could empty half the pot in one meal :-). They are best if done with fresh grape leaves but if you cannot get hold of fresh leaves you could substitute with brined ones.

This is a much beloved recipe, present in the Mediterranean and Balkan countries’ cuisines, known as  sarma/dolma/dolmades. Today I am presenting my grandma’s recipe- little supper yummy bundles of meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves, called sarmi in Bulgarian. My grandma and mum serve the sarmas with ‘tarator’ or best known as ‘tzatziki’ ( chopped cucumbers with seasoned strained yoghurt). Its a match made in heaven–the freshness of the garlicky yoghurt sauce goes so well with the tangy taste of the grape leaves. I like my sarmas cold as finger food but they make also a perfect hot main dish. Funnily I like the taste of the leaves better than the filling..so I am always happy to collect some from my son’s plate who unwraps the sarmas to eat the filling only :-). This is a simple dish, needing few basic ingredients but the final result will be a healthy and super delicious treat with Mediterranean, grapevine undertones. Once you taste these little parcels you will forget about the time-consuming hand rolling 🙂

Ingredients:

40-50 fresh grape leaves

500 g minced beef

150 g short-grain rice

1 large onion, chopped

6 tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Fresh dill and parsley, chopped

Salt, pepper and paprika to taste

First start with trimming off the stems, then blanch the leaves in boiling water for 20 minutes. Rinse the leaves in cold water, drain and set aside.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and sauté the chopped onion for about 5 minutes, add the rice and stir until it becomes translucent. Add the minced beef and the seasoning (salt, paprika, pepper, dill and parsley) and cook, stirring continuously, for another 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool for 10-15 minutes before starting to wrap the grape leaves.

Pick a leave and place it flat on a plate, veiny side up, and put a spoonful of the filling in the centre. Roll the leaves as shown in the pictures below:

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Place 3-4 grape leaves at the bottom of a pot to prevent sticking. Place sarmas on top, packing them closely together with the seam side down. There should be 2-3 layers, depending of the size of the leaves. Add the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt to taste and water to the pot until sarmas are just covered. Place a plate upside down on top of them, this is done to prevent unrolling during cooking.

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 (this is how the plate looked like while the sarmas were cooking)

Bring the sarmas to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 60-70 minutes. Serve warm or cold with tzatziki, lemon wedges or plain yoghurt on the side.

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