Monday, February 9, 2009

Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves - Yabrak Dolmas

Dolma is a family of stuffed vegetable dishes in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and surrounding regions, including Turkey, Egypt, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, the Balkans, Greece, Iraq, Iran, Perhaps the best-known is the grape-leaf dolma, which is more precisely called yaprak dolma or sarma. Common vegetables to stuff include zucchini, eggplant, tomato and pepper. The stuffing may or may not include meat. Meat dolma are generally served warm, often with sauce; meatless ones are generally served cold, Both are often eaten with yoghurt.

Ingredients :
500 gm grape leaves(either comes fresh, frozen or in jars packed with water- I grow my own grapes and pick the leaves in the summer and freeze them for the winter)
500 gm of ground meat (50% beef - 50% lamb) or use all beef
250 gm of white short grain rice (I use basmati rice which I like better)

1 tsp Lebanese spice mix (look for my recipe) or tsp. of cinnamon, half tsp. of all spice
1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp black pepper
2-4 freshly squeezed lemons (depend on your taste) 

for serving: homemade yogurt or good quality store bought for serving. (check my recipe)
couple cloves of mashed garlic to mix with the yogurt this is optional or serve with yogurt by itself.

Fresh Ontario Lamb is not available in the stores on regular basis , only the Australian brand.
When I see a nice big piece I buy it slice it myself , divide and freeze it to use in recipes. I used 2 packages of lamb shoulders deboned and the meat is grounded and I added lean ground beef, and used the bones to make the stock to cook the grape leaves.

the instructions and preparation with photos:

the ground lamb

ground lamb , ground beef, rice and spice + (1/4 cup of water to soak the rice )
the lamb stock
leave the frozen grape leaves to defrost, don't try to flatten them before they are completely defrosted , they will break.
if you are using grape leaves from a jar, carefully take the leaves out, wash them from the salt, then boil them for two minutes as some leave are very thick .
For frozen grape leaves, boil a pot of hot water for less than one minutes, as they are picked young and tender and kept frozen they leaves are nice and tender.

Move them to a strainer to drain and cool before stuffing.
I prefer cooking my food in clay pot or ceramic. I soaked my clay pot in water for at least 15 minutes.
open the leaf and turn the back side up facing you, add around tbsp. of stuffing stretch it along the top (when you roll you will have the smooth side for cooking) close both ends over the stuffing , and roll the leaf, don't tight the roll, the rice needs to cook properly and soak the juice, it will turn dry,
also don't roll it very loose the stuffing will come out during the cooking -  adding the 1/4 cup of water to the rice stuffing mix helps the rice to open and fluff when cooking.  My aunt adds the squeezed lemons juice in the stuffing instead of the water... its a preference.

start layering the grape leave in the bottom of the pot, if the stock if very thick and gelatinous, add around two cups only and continue to cover the grape leave with water .  Other wise use all meat stock.  The water has to cover the leaves. look at the photo above.

You can easily cook it in a stainless steel pot on top of the stove, start at medium high and when it starts boiling lower the heat and continue cooking till the rice and meat are cooked completely.  a plate on top of the grape leaves secure the leaves and keep them in place not open.
Serve the Grape Leaves with home made yogurt, or Greek style yogurt.
p.s.: Instead of lamb meat you can use only ground beef and use chicken stock to cook your grape leaves.  My mom puts lamb chops or deboned chicken pieces under the grape leaves to get the maximum flavour.

You can clean core and stuff small marrow zucchini and add it to the pot, its delicious cooked together .

we prefer to use the Lebanese zucchini(marrow squash) if not available use thin bright green and small size zucchini, wash and get yourself this holler, from a Middle Eastern Store in your area. Little by little start going down and turning slowly so you can carve and pull at the same time the heart of the zucchini, making sure your hand is steady so it doesn't break the zucchini.
don't throw the inside , its delicious and healthy, mix it with eggs for omelets or make zucchini fritters .


lunaticg said...

this look delicious but it is very hard to find grape leaves in Malaysia.
thank you for sharing your recipe.
See you around.

Arlette said...

Hello Lunaticg
If you have Middle Eastern Stores in Malaysia you will find them in jars, pickled in salted water, and you wash them and follow my recipe.
its delicious... you should try it.

jouhayna said...

hmmmmm il looks delicious
thanks a lot for this recipe