Yes, I am biased. Persian dolmehs are the best!
The stuffings are more creative and richer in flavor. This dish is loved by many, and as a result of the time involved, people seldom make it. Therefore, it is craved by many!
In Persian/Azerbaijani recipes, common vegetables are stuffed, including: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, quince, onion, and cabbage. Stuffing recipes are similar, with minor adjustments for individual taste. In this post, I am presenting the most commonly known, the grape leave dolmeh.
Again, this is a very time-consuming dish, ~2 hours for preparation and 2 hours for final-stage cooking. Ingredients need not be precisely as I have listed. This is a basic recipe which may be tweaked. In Persian dolmeh recipes, summer-savory is one of the herbs called for. However, I am not keen on dried summer-savory. I may try fresh summer savory if I find it (¼ cup fresh or 1 Tbsp dried). Many don’t use cilantro or turmeric for dolmeh and I have, as I love them. Experiment and have fun.
Dolmeh’ye Barge’e Mo / Stuffed Grape Leaves
Served as a main dish, 6~10 pieces per person; as a side dish or appetizer, 2~3 pieces per person. This recipe is for 50~60 dolmehs, which is the typical number of leaves (60+) in a bottle of grape leaves in brine.
3 cups parsley (1 large bunch) finely chopped
2 cups cilantro (1 large bunch) finely chopped
1 cup scallions (8 small stems) finely chopped
2 Tbsp dried dill
1 Tbsp dried tarragon flakes
1 Tbsp dried mint flakes
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup basmati rice, 2 cups water, ½ tsp salt
- Combine ingredients and bring to a boil on high. Lower heat to medium and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
5 Tbsp yellow split peas (slow cook kind), 2 cups water, ½ tsp salt
(Non ‘slow cook’ yellow split peas cook very fast and fall apart.)
- Combine ingredients and bring to a boil on high (scoop out the foam). Lower heat to medium and boil for 25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
½ lb ground beef (lamb or turkey)
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup hot water
- Use medium-size frying pan, add oil and chopped onion. Sauté at medium heat until edges begin to brown. Add garlic and meat and sauté thoroughly. Add turmeric and hot water and simmer until all water is evaporated. Set aside to cool.
50~60 fresh grape leaves or bottled in brine (32 oz/16 oz drained)
- If using fresh grapes, blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water.
If using grape leaves in brine, drain brine from bottle, empty contents/leaves into large bowl, cover with cold water and soak for 10 minutes. Place colander in a sink. Remove leaves, one- by-one, and place on sides of colander in 4 batches; big, thick batch, torn/holes batch, medium size, and small size.
- Add cooked rice, cooked yellow split peas and cooked meat to the bowl with the herbs, add (1 tsp) salt and mix well.
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup verjuice (unripe grapes) or lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
2 ½ cups hot water
- On kitchen counter, organize and have a handy assembly of mixed stuffing, cutting board (or large plate) a pair of scissors and a medium pot.
- Starting with the larger leaves, place the grape leaf with its vein side up, cut the ‘petiole’ off, top with one table spoonful stuffing on the leaf and wrap from the ‘petiole’ side. Roll up the leaf, folding in the sides/ends so the stuffing is well sealed in. Place the rolled dolmehs tightly next to each other in the pot.
When all the leaves are rolled and tightly placed in the pot, add the hot water, verjuice and salt. As a weight to hold the dolmehs in place, put a flat plate (big enough to cover as many dolmehs in the pot, and heavier the better) over the dolmehs, up-side down. Put pot’s lid on and simmer at medium-low heat for 2 hours. Periodically check pot to make sure its liquid has not totally evaporated. Add hot water if needed. When it is fully cooked, ½ cup liquid should remain at the bottom of the pot.
Turn off heat and let pot sit for 10 minutes. Remove dolmehs very carefully (by hand or chopsticks). As a main dish, goes well with yogurt.
- For sweet-and-sour taste, replace turmeric with 1 tsp cinnamon and replace verjuice with (a) ½ cup sugar and 1/3 cup vinegar, or (b) mix 3 Tbsp pomegranate sauce with 3 Tbs water.
- For vegetarian, skip the meat (but add caramelized onion and garlic) , incorporate above option for ‘sweet-and-sour’, replace meat with 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts and also 1/3 cup raisins, dried currants or cranberries.
Noushe jan / Bon Appétit!
Azita of Fig & Quince posted an excellent example of quince dolmeh,
Dolmeh’ye Beh – Stuffed Quince.
I prefer rolling the grape leaves by hand… but if you are wondering how anyone could roll the dolmas so precisely in one perfect/uniform size, the secret is “The Ultimate Dolma Machine” made in Turkey.
↓ Watch from 3:55 to 4:50 ↓