The Dolma or Dolmak is a food originating from Ottoman cuisine, which spread to many countries in the Middle East during the Osmanlí empire. It is a fig leaf stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, vegetables, and nuts served in a citrus sauce. And although it may seem like a simple recipe, it has centuries of history, and many variants and names.
History of the Dolma
The real origin of the Dolma is not known, but many historians agree that the first versions of the dish were the product of the need to preserve food. The Turks who inhabited the steppes of Central Asia began to practice sedentary agriculture. In principle, the vegetables were harvested and dried in summer. Then in the winter when food was scarce, they rehydrated the vegetables.
They cooked them in water, wrapped in grape leaves. In this way, the Turks adopted this food, from the beginning of their sedentary life.
This dish was spread by all the countries of the Middle East dominated by the Ottoman Empire. According to the country it is named differently. For example, in Greece it is Dolmades, Dolmen in Persia, in Armenia it is called Tolma, and Sarma in Romania. In Arabia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, and Turkey it is known as Dolma.
Like kebabs, there are dozens of versions of this recipe. Although some elements remain constant. For example, if they are stuffed with meat, they are served hot and they work as a complete meal. If they are filled with rice and vegetables, they are served cold and can be an appetizer. But the variations are almost endless. The most frequent is the substitution of grape leaves for cabbage leaves. Or even for other vegetables such as pepper, eggplant, onion, or tomato. In other words, the word Dolma is accepted, to refer to stuffed vegetable dishes.
Tips to make the Dolma
• The ideal leaves for the Dolma are the shoots of the grapevine, that is, the youngest leaves. Very mature leaves tend to be tough, and difficult to mold.
• It is always good to buy a little more grape leaves than necessary. Because when washed they can break and will not serve as wrappers.
• For cooking it is better to use a steamer. If you don't have a steamer. You should use a pressure cooker, placing weight on top of the dolmas to prevent them from floating and falling apart.
• Dolma are steamed, but the flavors of this steam are very important to the final result of the recipe. If possible, you must put some fatty meat to cook on the bottom, also lemon juice and minced garlic. This way the grape leaves will taste delicious.
• If you do not have a steamer. The easiest way to handle the dolma for cooking is, tying them in groups of eight to ten units. To prevent them from floating and falling apart during cooking.
Recipe to make the traditional Arabian rice and meat stuffed grape leaves. The Dolma.
40 grape leaves, 500 g. of leaves
12 cups of water
2 cups of basmati rice, 300 g.
200 g. ground beef (You can use a combination of 100g of beef and 100g of lamb)
1 small onion, 80 g.
6 cloves of garlic
A bunch of parsley
A bunch of mints
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of black pepper
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup raisins
½ teaspoon of salt
1 kg of lamb meat. This meat will only be boiled in water, then you can use it for any other recipe
Take a good look at the grape leaves, and cut the stems flush. Then wash them under running water. Group them in batches of ten to blanch them.
In a saucepan, add enough water. About eight cups or so, turn the stove to full heat. When it is boiling, place the grape leaves for two minutes to soften them. Remove them from the hot water, and put them to drain in a colander. Reserve.
Finely chop the onion, parsley, and mint, and crush two garlic.
Put the rice in a strainer, and rinse until all the starch comes out of the rice.
In a mixing bowl, place the rice, beef, onion, crushed garlic, mint, parsley, cumin, pepper, pine nuts, raisins, and salt. Knead until all the ingredients are well integrated and adhere to each other. In case the meat is very lean (with little fat), you can add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to help the process. Everything is ready to make the dolma.
Layout a fig leaf on a flat surface. Place a generous spoonful of filling along the length of the leaf, over the widest part near the stem. Make the first turn to the sheet to wrap the filling. Then fold the edges of the sheet inward, and finish rolling. Repeat until you run out of leaves or filling.
If you have a steamer, put enough water in the bottom of the pot. Add the leftover garlic and the juice of the three lemons. If you have the lamb, or some other meat with abundant fat, put it in the bottom of the pot. Turn the stove on to medium-high heat and arrange the dolma one on top of the other in the steamer. Cook for about an hour. Carefully remove from steamer, and serve hot with yogurt sauce and lemon wedges.
you don't have a steamer try simulating one, using a deep pot and plates to
create the tiers. On the first level, place the meat, with garlic, lemon, and
enough water. Cover with a plate (heat resistant). On top of the plate place
the ordered dolmas. And
cover the pot. Cook for an hour.