Stuffed cabbage leaves are popular in winter time at Turkish homes. This wonderful, healthy and comforting dish is one of my childhood favorites; always brings lots of pleasant memories. I remember us all sitting around the kitchen table preparing the cabbage leaves ready to be stuffed, eagerly waiting for them to be cooked. Once it is cooked, we children all used to camp around the pot, offering (and sometimes helping ourselves) to “quality check” if the stuffed leaves cooked well. We loved eating these treats dipping into plain yoghurt, happy days 🙂
I hope you have a go at making these fantastic dolmas; it is really not as hard as you would imagine and will certainly impress your guests. The sharpness of lemon brings extra zing and goes very well with cabbage.
Preparation time : 35 minutes Cooking time : 35-40 minutes
1 medium white cabbage – brings out about 25 leaves
250gr/9oz/generous 1 cup lean ground (minced) lamb or beef
115gr/4oz/1/2 cup long grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic (optional)
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
15ml/1tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
2 teaspoon dried mint
60ml/4 tablespoons olive oil
8fl oz/1 cup hot water
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1 small bowl of natural (plain) yoghurt
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Cut the cabbage in half vertically and cut out the hearts. Plunge into a pot of salted boiling water and cook for about 5-8 minutes. The leaves should be tender but not over cooked. Rinse under cold running water and carefully remove the outer leaves. Cut away the hard central vein, resulting in about 25 pieces of cabbage leaves, about the size of your hand.
For the filling; put the ground meat in a bowl and stir in the onions, parsley, dried mint, red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons olive oil and the tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper and knead, until they all combined well. Add the rice and mix well with a spoon, taking care not to break the rice grains.
Take one of the cabbage leaves on a flat surface and spoon a walnut size of the filling at the base of each leaf. Fold the edges over the filling and roll up to form a chunky finger sized dolma. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
Pour the remaining olive oil in a deep, wide pan. Arrange the dolmas in the pan seam side down and side by side. If you like, scatter the garlic cloves amongst the dolmas – once they are cooked the cloves will be moist and juicy, and will add a wonderful flavor. Mix the lemon juice, hot water and a pinch of salt, then pour over the dolmas. The liquid should come at least halfway up the top layer, so you may need to add extra liquid. Place a heavy plate over the leaves to stop them from unraveling, followed by a lid or foil.
Cook over low heat for about 35-40 minutes, until the dolmas are tender. Remove from the heat and let the dolmas rest for about 10 minutes. That will help the dolmas to come out without breaking and make the flavor even better.
Serve hot, with yoghurt by the side and lemon wedges to squeeze over.
Note: You can also use grapevine leaves for dolma, yaprak sarmasi with either using the vegetarian aromatic rice stuffing or meat and rice stuffing.