Meze: Dolmades

Yesterday, hubby and I marked 23 years as a couple and after scouring the web for vegetarian-friendly restaurants for a festive dinner, we decided to cook up a feast of our own to celebrate. It’s surprisingly difficult to find a restaurant in our part of the world that offers more than one or two veggie dishes and isn’t a) Italian (we cook Italian food at home 3 or 4 nights a week) or b) one we’ve been to before. We opted for a Greek-ish meze table.

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I’ll post recipes for the dishes one by one, so as not to overload one post. Let’s start with…

Dolmades

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This recipe was adapted from about 10 different food blogs and from my memory of making this dish many, many years ago.

Ingredients:

Vine leaves in brine, rinsed and drained (about 24)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 shallots (scallions), finely sliced
1 cup long grain rice
200 ml vegetable broth for rice
1 cup vegetable broth for dolmades
Juice of 1 lemon, halved
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Pinch dried mint
Pinch dried dill

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the onion and shallots, cooking until translucent. Stir in the rice until well coated with oil. Stir in 200 ml of broth and the juice of half a lemon, bring to the boil then turn heat to lowest possible and simmer, covered, until the liquid has been absorbed (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the pine nuts and herbs.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Rolling the dolmades can be tricky if the centre part of the leaf is small, but I figure we’re going for taste above all else, so I’m not too fussy about being able to pick them up with delicate fingertips to eat them. Put the leaf shiny-side down, stem end at the bottom and put a scant dessertspoon of the rice mixture just above the stem. Use your fingers to press it out into a sausage shape, then fold the bottom parts of the leaf up, fold the sides in and roll tightly. Repeat for as much filling as you have. Pack them into the bottom of a shallow baking dish (I used one that measures 22×22 cm). Gently pour over 1 cup of broth and drizzle with the juice of half a lemon. Cover the dish with foil and put it in the oven for about an hour.

Let cool and serve with lemon wedges or tzatziki.

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