Most countries around the Mediterranean seem to have some version or another of stuffed grape leaves/stuffed vine leaves. The names vary from dolmeh, dolma and dolmades depending on the language and the fillings vary as well, although the majority contain rice and ground meat along with various herbs. These dolmeh are based on the Persian version in honor of the fact it is almost Persian new year, plus the fact they are really delicious, full of lots of great herbs and with the addition of creamy yellow split peas.
For anyone who’s wondering, the full name, dolmeh barge mo, in the title is to specifically mean stuffed grape leaves as opposed to any other stuffed vegetable, as the term ‘dolmeh’ (and the same goes for it’s counterpart name in a few languages) actually more means something stuffed, rather than specifically grape leaves. Stuffing things like peppers, eggplant/aubergine or cabbage are also pretty common. I was in the mood for stuffed grape leaves, though, and these are certainly tasty little bites.
These are something that takes a bit of time to make, particularly rolling them up, but you do find yourself getting in to a bit of a production line, laying a few leaves out at a time, scooping on the filling and rolling. If rolling them seems a bit scary, really don’t worry – you just fold in the bottom edges, fold in the sides, tuck the bits you have folded in over the filling as you roll from the bottom towards the top of the leaf (see photos above and below). You sit the leaves with the join/tip of the leaf down so it helps hold it together as they cook.
Now I know a lot of my cooking is aimed at being suitable for the whole family and I admit the leaves here are not likely to be great for little ones, but the filling certainly is. If you don’t want the hassle of rolling all the leaves to take some out for younger eaters, then keep some filling aside or make some extra, add a little water and lemon juice to it after the steps below and cook, stirring regularly, until the liquid is absorbed and the herbs have wilted down and you’ll have a similar result to the final filling in the stuffed grape leaves.
The quantity below uses about half of a jar of grape leaves/vine leaves which is around 30. This, for me, was enough to have around since it wasn’t for a party or anything, but clearly make more if you need them. The remaining leaves I have left in the jar, pushed down a little and topped up the liquid with water and they should keep refrigerated for a little while. The stuffed grape leaves themselves will keep refrigerated a few days, so you can gradually dig in to them as we have been.
I hope you’ll give these a try as they really are worth the bit of extra effort. The result is delicious and they are great as a party appetizer. You can also add a few additions such as a salad, humous and pitta and cacik/tzatziki (both grated cucumber, squeezed out to remove excess liquid, mixed with plain yoghurt – Greek-style best – and then flavored with dill and crushed garlic or mint) to make a full meal. Dig in and enjoy.
- ¼ cup /55g yellow split peas
- ½ cup rice (basmati works well)
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- ¼lb/ 115g ground beef/beef mince (you can also used lamb and a little more is fine too)
- 70g parsley on stem, chopped, making ¾ cup chopped leaves
- 30 mint on stem, chopped, making ¾ cup chopped leaves
- 10g tarragon on stem, chopped, making 3tbsp chopped leaves (or use 3tsp dried)
- 5g dill, chopped - include stems unless thick, making 2tbsp chopped (or use 2tsp dried)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1tbsp tomato paste
- juice of ½ lemon
- water at various points, see below
- Put the yellow split peas in a small pan with ¾cup/ 180ml water, bring to the boil and cook for around 25 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside
- Meanwhile cook the rice in 1 cup/480ml water, bring to the boil and cook around 10 minutes until cooked and water absorbed. Set aside.
- While the peas and rice are cooking, cook the onions and crushed garlic in a large skillet/frying pan until softened, around 5-10 minutes. Add the ground beef/beef mince and cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks.
- Add the chopped herbs and the cooked rice and yellow split peas, stir well, then add the turmeric, tomato paste and ½ cup/ 120ml water. Add some salt and pepper to taste and stir well.
- Cook for a couple more minutes until liquid has absorbed. Remove from the heat.
- Rinse the grape leaves/vine leaves to get rid of any brine from the jar then lay a few out flat on a clean surface.
- Spoon some of the filling mixture - around 1tbsp per leaf - in the centre of each leaf, fold in the bottom edges, then the sides, tuck in the folded sides over the filling at the top then roll from the bottom towards the tip to make a roll (see pictures above).
- Lightly oil a large, shallow heavy-based pan or dutch oven and arrange the stuffed grape leaves in a layer across the bottom, packing them in tightly. If possible make one layer but two if you need to.
- Squeeze over the juice of ½ lemon and pour over ½ cup /120ml water. Cover with a plate to hold them down and put the lid on then cook over a medium-low heat for around 45mins. Check towards the end that there is still a little liquid and add more lemon and water if need be.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.