Rice stuffing wrapped in vine leaves is the quintessential dolma dish. Popular in Greek restaurants the world over, its origins remain a mystery as many country in the Mediterranean include dolmades in their menus. Angela Nicolettou's version is tasty and easy to make, suitable even for novice cooks.
1 jar vine leaves or 50 fresh grapevine leaves
2 cups short grain rice, washed
6 spring onions, finely chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
½ cup dill, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped mint or 1 tsp dried mint
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups of water
If using fresh grapevine leaves, cut off stalks, blanch in boiling water for 1 minute and then place in cold water. Drain leaves and set aside.
Otherwise remove grapevine leaves from brine and place in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes. Drain, uncurl and set aside.
In a bowl add the rice, spring onions, herbs, HALF the lemon juice and HALF the olive oil, salt, pepper and mix well.
Take a heavy based saucepan (20cm or so is sufficient) and line it with about 6 vine leaves (try to use any that are torn).
To make dolmades, place one leaf – vein side up, and base closest to you - on plate. Add one tablespoon of rice mixture at the base section of the leaf. Fold in the sides as you roll the leaf up into a small parcel (a bit like a fish and chips packet). The dolma should be just firm but not tight. Place the dolma inside the edge of the saucepan or baking dish. Continue to add dolmades next to each other to form a circle. Once complete, create another circle inside this and so on until the base layer is full. Continue by adding a second layer until all the leaves and or rice mixture is used. Cover dolmades with extra vine leaves.
To hold the dolmades in place during cooking, place a plate large enough to fit inside the saucepan, on top of the dolmades and weigh this down with a jug or mug full of water. Poor the remaining lemon juice, olive oil and the water around the plate. Cook for about 60 minutes over a low to medium heat. Let them rest for at least 10 minutes before removing from the saucepan. Serve warm or cold with some Greek style yoghurt.