Stuffed vine leaves, known in Greece as dolmades, are the ultimate sharing food both in terms of the cooking and the eating.
Time consuming rather than difficult, making the stuffed vine leaves is more enjoyable the more helpers you have.
Makes 25 – 30.
This version owes a big thanks to Elizabeth Mars vegetarian stuffed grape vine leaves recipe on her excellent blog The Back Yard Lemon Tree, in which she advocates the use of 2 chopped onions for creating a melt in the mouth texture
- Rinse the rice and soak in a bowl of cold water for 45 minutes prior to cooking.
- Plunge the vine leaves into boiling water for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water and then to a colander to drain.
- Toast the pine nuts in a dry, non-stick pan for a minute or two until they begin to brown and set aside.
- Grate the zest from the lemon, set aside, and then cut the lemon into thin slices.
- Grind the fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
- Fry the onion in olive oil until soft then add the drained rice. Keep stirring, adding a little more olive oil, and fry on a low heat for 10 minutes until the rice starts to turn translucent.
- Combine the rice and onion mix with the ground fennel seeds, chilli flakes, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, dill, mint, parsley and garlic. Season well adding extra salt as the flavour will be diluted as the rice cooks and expands.
- Lay the vine leaf out flat, vein side up, and place a heaped teaspoon of the rice mixture at the stalk end of the leaf. Fold over the bottom of the leaf to cover the mixture. Fold the sides of the leaf and roll up. Repeat the process until you run out of mixture. You’ll end up making around 25-30.
- Lay most of the remaining vine leaves at the bottom of a heavy based pan leaving aside 3 or 4, then add your first layer of stuffed vine leaves packing them in so they are fairly snug.
- Add a scant layer of lemon slices and then begin your next layer of the stuffed vine leaves. Continue this process until all the leaves are packed in. Add a final scant layer of lemon slices and pour over the olive oil and the water. Lay the few remaining vine leaves on top.
- Sit a plate on top of the leaves to keep them from fidgeting around too much during the cooking.
- Pop a lid on the pan and cook at a very gentle simmer for 1 hour.
- Once cooked, remove the pan from the heat and leave the cooked vine leaves to rest a while. The vine leaves will become firmer as they start to cool and will then be easier to transfer to the serving plate.
- Serve hot or cold. Delicious with a really minty vegan tzatziki.