Stuffed Grapevine Leaves Turkish Dolma Recipe
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Yaprak Sarma - vine leaves stuffed with rice
Yaprak sarma is a Turkish dolma recipe (dolma means 'stuffed' in Turkish) using grape vine leaves stuffed with a rice, nut and raisin filling that my husband makes for us from time to time. It's an easy recipe and similar to stuffed cabbage rolls, only using grape vine leaves instead of cabbage.
I live in South West France so I'm lucky enough to be blessed with vine leaves. They grow all around our B&B in Limousin, and they provide the shade for the terrace of our holiday cottage. In the Spring, the vine grows fast and we have to keep up with the pruning. It seems a shame to waste the leaves, so we often collect them and make these delicious stuffed grape leaves.
The beauty about this recipe is that it's suitable for vegans and vegetarians too.
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My stuffed cabbages
Stuffed cabbage v stuffed vine leaves
I love stuffed cabbage and have a great stuffed cabbage recipe that is local to our corner of the Limousin, South West France, but I also love the vine leaves filled with either meat and rice, or rice, fruit and nuts. These dolmas are traditional celebratory food in Turkey - and I just love Turkish food.
Which is best - cabbage or vine leaves? Well, I love them both but I would say that the vine leaves don't have a strong flavour, so if cabbage is not your favourite vegetable, you might well like the vine leaves better.
The other thing I like about the dolma recipe is that it's that little bit exotic - it'll impress your friends no end.
Are you a lover of stuffed cabbage or a sucker for Turkish dolma?
Yaprak Sarma or stuffed cabbage rolls?See results without voting
Ingredients for your dolma recipe
- 250 g Risotto or pudding rice
- 150 g Raisins, Chopped
- A handful Almonds or pine kernels, Chopped
- 1 large Onion, Chopped
- 3 Cloves of garlic, Chopped
- 4 tablespoons Olive oil
- 1 level dessert spoon Ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper, Coarsely ground or crushed
- Pinch Salt
- Water, Enough to moisten
- Handfull Fresh mint, Optional
- To taste - 2 - 3 teaspoons Sugar, (If you have a sweet tooth)
Utensils that you'll need for your stuffed grape leaves
A large saute (or frying) pan with a tightly fitting lid
Or a large saucepan with a tightly fitting lid
A good kitchen knife
A mixing bowl - I like pyrex because you can add hot water or microwave it too, although you don't need to do either for this recipe
I love my nice, large, stainless steel colander
This is the little steamer that I've had forever. It unfolds to fit any pan. Pop it into the bottom of your saucepan, open it out and put your stuffed vine leaves (or any other vegetable or object to be steamed) on top. Then fill the pan up to the base of the steamer. A really useful and economical kitchen utensil.
Our leaves on a vine
Picking the vine leaves
Our vine leaves grow along the front of our barns and on the side and back of our holiday home (or gite) where they shade the terrace in summer. Vines grow vigerously so we have to do quite a bit of pruning in the spring and early summer so the terrace is pleasantly cool but not dark and gloomy.
What an opportunity to use the grape leafs in these dolmas recipes. When picking your grape vine leaves, pick the best leaves on a vine early in the season while they are young and tender. Try to use leaves that are clean and free from chemicals and pesticides.
Choose the largest and nicest-looking leaves, and make sure that you cut them with the stalks on - because you'll need these later on in cooking.
Cooking the grape leaves
Wash the leaves in cold water and cut off the stalks as close to the leaf as possible and put the stalks to one side.
Put the leaves into a large sauté pan or saucepan, taking care to keep them flat. Cover with boiling water and simmer for at least half an hour. The vine leaves turn a slightly lighter colour when they're ready.
You can also use a steamer if you like (see below).
Turn the leaves out into a colander to drain and cool down.
Your leaves are now ready to be stuffed with the rice mixture.
Instructions - How to prepare the rice stuffing for your vine leafs
- Chop the onion, the raisins, garlic and almonds finely and put into a mixing bowl
- Add the risotto rice, black pepper, a pinch of salt, olive oil and cinnamon. Mix together
- Add enough water to moisten the ingredients, but not so much that it puddles into the bottom of the dish (not too critical)
This is what the rice, raisin and almond mixture should look like
Put a small amount of the mixture onto the vine leaf
How to fold your vine leaf
What about a rolling machine for stuffed grape leaves?
There's no doubt about it that it takes time to stuff a vine leaf or two. Now, you could just take a little time out, glass of wine, cup of coffee, on with your favourite music or a bit of radio and quietly and patiently roll your vine leaves. You could practice and get really quick and skillful - or you could get a a rolling machine for stuffed grape leaves.
I came across this Turkish dolma, yaprak sarma machine below on eBay and it seems like a bargain - all the way from Istanbul too!
How to cook the stuffed vine leaves
Place the vine leaves into the saucepan or sauté (frying) pan on top of the stalks. You can build up several layers as the dolma cook in the steam.
Add just enough boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the side of the bottom roll.
Keep checking the water level because it will evaporate and so you might need to top it up a couple of times at least. Steam for about an hour or until soft and tender (try one to check the rice is soft).
This is the traditional method. I've just made a whole heap of stuffed vine leaves for a dinner party and put them into my biggest casserole with my little steamer in the bottom (see utensil list above). I piled up my dolmas in a criss-cross pattern and filled the pan with boiling water up to the base of the steamer.
Serve cold by themselves.
Life too short to stuff a vine leaf?
Well - you can always buy them ready made!
Irmik Helvasi is a great quick and easy Turkish dessert
This dessert is one of our all-time favourites and everybody loves it! It uses store cupboard ingredients, it's dead easy, little cooking and tastes delicious. This dessert is perfect to go with your dolma.
Have I inspired you to stuff a vine leaf or two?
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The vines leaves mix with our roses to give shade behind our holiday cottage - excellent for our Turkish dolma recipe
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