Recipe: Dolmades (vine leaf parcels)
With the vineyard plot recovered from the hard May frost (well, the vines are growing well, the grape crop isn't going to be so good since many of the flowers died in the frost) we're having to do a lot of pruning shoots.
The good side of this is that we have lots of grape leaves to use!
This is our first year with the vineyard, so we've not yet had much time to experiment with vine leaf dishes- but dolmades were very high on our list of must-cook dishes.
Helpfully, they're a great way to use up cooked rice in a "look, honest, this isn't exactly the same meal we had yesterday" kind of way. A little bit of reading around shows that dolmades- or something like them- are made pretty much everywhere that grapes grow- with an incredibly varied range of fillings, often based around rice, meat or bulghur wheat.
Leftover pilau turns out to make a really tasty filling for dolmades- especially with some crumbled feta stirred in too, or extra seeds and chopped nuts.
Here's an outline of how to make dolmades with fresh grape vine leaves, assuming you already have some tasty cooked rice at the ready- and if you don't, try making pilau first!
Pick as many middling-sized grape leaves as you want dolmades, plus a few spares for breakages.
Cut the stems off the leaves
Wash the leaves well, to remove any insects (you should be using unsprayed vine leaves- if you're using leaves from somebody else's vine, check they don't have any unpleasant pesticides or fertilisers on them).
Pour boiling water over the leaves and leave for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves are pale green and soft.
Put the leaves into cold water (use a spoon!) until they're cool enough to use.
Place a leaf, stem side up, onto a flat surface (a chopping board is good).
Put a spoonful of rice mix onto the leaf near the stem end.
Fold up the stem end of the leaf over the rice
Fold the sides over the rice
Roll the leaf up until you reach the tip.
Place the rolled leaf into a dish.
Repeat until the dish is full.
Pour over about 100-150ml hot water or bouillon, plus a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Cook at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until piping hot all through and the water has been absorbed.
Delicious served hot or cold with salads, cheeses, as a starter or main course...