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Rolled grape vine leaves with aromatic rice; Yaprak Sarma

Etli Sarma – Vine Leaves Stuffed with Ground Meat, Rice and Herbs

We made the etli sarma – stuffed vine leaves with meat and rice – with my mother when I was in Istanbul, it was a very special experience. Mother’s sarma (a version of dolma, done with grape vine leaves) is always the best and I was watching her with all my senses. This is a real treat; you can get together with friends and family and make it together and then enjoy it. I love it best when served with plain yoghurt and a little crusty bread to soak up wonderful juices.

You can also make the same sarma/dolma using green or red cabbage leaves.

Serves 4 -6
Preparation time – 15 minutes Cooking time – 40 minutes

30 grape vine leaves
350 gr/12 oz ground lamb or beef
2 small onions, finely chopped
115 gr/4 oz long grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 bunch fresh dill and flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
5 ml/ 1 teaspoon dried mint
45 ml/ 3 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
8 fl oz/ 1 cup water to cook the stuffed vine leaves
90 ml (or more) / 6 tablespoon plain yoghurt to serve

Place the ground meat in a bowl and stir in the onions, rice, herbs and spices. Season, combine with 1 tablespoon olive oil and knead well.

Lay one of the vine leaves on a flat surface and spoon some filling in the middle of the leaf. Pull the leaf over the filling, fold in the sides, then roll into a tight log (try not to over fill, as the filling may ooze out). Arrange the vine leaves, seam side down, in a deep wide pan. Pack them tightly together, layer by layer.

Mix the remaining oil with 1 cup (8 fl oz) water, then pour over the vine leaves. The water should almost cover the top layer, so you may need to add more.

Place a heavy plate over the dolmas and put the pan on medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, lower the heat, cover and cook gently for about 40 minutes, until the rice and meat are cooked.

Serve hot, with a dollop of yoghurt and some crusty bread by the side.

Afiyet Olsun!

I am passionate about healthy, wholesome Turkish cuisine; over 90 authentic recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table – Signed hardback copies are available at this link and delivered worldwide promptly.

Aromatic rice for stuffing vegetables and vine leaves – Zeytinyagli Dolma Ici

Turkish people are very fond of stuffed vegetables – dolmas. Stuffed tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are the year round favorites, cabbage leaves are stuffed in winter and vine leaves and zucchini flowers herald a fresh option in springtime. The success of any great dolma, which literally means “stuffed”, relies heavily on getting the stuffing right and the generous use of onions is of utmost importance. This recipe is for the stuffing used in “zeytinyagli dolma” recipes, which are made with generous usage of olive oil and without meat. They are eaten cold as an entrée or meze and a wonderful vegetarian option.

Recipe adapted from Angie Mitchell’s wonderful book, Secrets of the Turkish Kitchen.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time – 15 minutes Cooking time – 15 minutes

30 ml/ 2 tablespoons currants
8 fl. oz /1 cup long grain rice
2 fl oz / 1/4 cup olive oil
30 ml/ 2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 medium onions, finely chopped or grated
5 ml / 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 fl oz / 1 cup hot water
1 handful of freshly chopped parsley and dill
15 ml/ 1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and sugar to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the currants in hot water to allow them to swell, drain and put to one side.

Heat the oil in a deep pan and gently sauté the pine nuts until golden. Add the chopped onions and sauté until soft. Add the rice, currants and cinnamon, while stirring gently to ensure the rice grains are evenly coated. Add the hot water, salt and sugar, stir once and continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until the cooking liquid is absorbed and steam holes appear in the surface of the rice. It is important not to stir the rice during this time.

Remove from the heat, cover the top of the pan with a cloth, replace the lid and set aside to cool for 20 minutes.

Season with freshly ground black pepper. Add the herbs and combine gently with a wooden spoon. The rice stuffing is now ready to stuff into the vine leaves.

Grapevine leaves stuffed with aromatic rice – Preparation

Have a go at making these fantastic dolmas, it is really much easier than you think and you will certainly impress your guests.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time – 35 minutes Cooking time – 35 minutes

25 grapevine leaves
Aromatic rice stuffing (explained above)
30 ml/ 2 tablespoons olive oil
8 fl oz/ 1 cup hot water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and sugar to taste
Sprigs of dill for garnish
Lemon wedges to serve

If you have fresh leaves, soften them in boiling salted water, drain and rinse under cold running water. If using the preserved variety, soak the leaves thoroughly in a few changes of water to remove the brine.
Cut away the stalks of the grapevine leaves. Place each leaf with the mat side facing you and one by one, place a walnut sized piece of rice stuffing at the base of each leaf. Fold the edges inwards over the stuffing and roll up to form a finger sized dolma. Pay attention not to stuff them too loose or too tight.
Line your pan with any discarded grapevine leaves. Arrange the dolmas in the pan seam side down and tightly side by side, creating layers. Whisk together the water, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar and salt and pour over the dolmas. Wet a circle of grease proof paper lightly and place over the dolmas. Place a heat proof dinner plate on top of this which fits easily and acts as a weight.
Cover and cook over a low heat for about 35 minutes or until the dolmas are tender. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer to a serving plate, drizzle with a little olive oil and garnish elegantly with sprigs of dill. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Note : It is important not to remove the cooked dolmas from the pan before they cooled down completely. Vegetables cooked in olive oil, “Zeytinyaglis”, are served cold. Traditionally, they are cooked a day in advance or in the morning, to allow the dolmas to rest.

Afiyet Olsun, 


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18 Responses to Rolled grape vine leaves with aromatic rice; Yaprak Sarma

  1. Ozlem's Turkish Table August 30, 2010 at 3:34 am #


    I posted a reply a couple of days ago but I think it hasn't made it, so I am trying again:) Many thanks for your comment, they really are cok lezzetli and much easier to make it than you think. I hope you give it a go sometime. Best wishes & afiyet olsun!

  2. Ozlem's Turkish Table August 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    Hello Vincent,
    Many thanks for your kind email, I am glad to meet Petitchef too. I tried to put it in my blog, though couldn't succeed 100 percent. Could you confirm your URL to me please? thank you!

  3. Anonymous September 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Merhaba Ozlem,

    I just returned from Turkey few days ago. Along with an engagement to my "Askimsin" — I also 'married the food'. We both love to cook and I was so happy to find an authentic recipe for sarma! I miss my Turkish family so much, and sarma was the first thing my mom (inlaw to be), fed me! Bu tarif gönderdiğiniz için teşekkür ederiz. Mari and Kadir

  4. Anonymous November 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Great food and great site!
    Thank you s much!

  5. Ozlem's Turkish Table February 10, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    You are most welcome, I am glad you enjoy the recipes,
    Afiyet Olsun:)

  6. Melisa October 12, 2014 at 3:50 am #

    I made the vegetarian version today. It was delicious! I made 100 dolmas. I doubled the portions in the aromatic rice recipe except I only used three onions and I had plenty of rice filling left over after making 100 dolmas. I think six onions would have overtaken the taste. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My non Turkish friends and my Turkish friends loved it.

    • Ozlem Warren October 12, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

      Merhaba Melissa, delighted to hear it! Onion sizes vary and if yours were big, they might have been a bit too much, I agree with you. Especially at the zeytinyagli sarma, we use plenty of onions though, once sauteed they taste is so sweet and wonderful. I am so glad you all enjoyed it, well done for making it and many thanks for your very kind feedback – afiyet olsun!:)

  7. Namik April 8, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Hi Ozlem

    I love your recipes and was wondering if you sell your own cook book?


    • Ozlem Warren April 9, 2015 at 11:58 am #

      Merhaba Namik,

      Many thanks for your kind note – a cookery book is something I would love to do, hope soon. And these reminders help greatly, many thanks – will keep you posted 🙂 Selamlar, Ozlem


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