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Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil

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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Zeytinyagli Pirasa – Leeks, Carrots and Rice Cooked with Olive Oil

Leeks, onions and carrots cooked in olive oil, Zeytinyagli Pirasa

Leeks, onions and carrots cooked in olive oil, Zeytinyagli Pirasa

Leeks are around all through the year these days and they are native to Anatolia, along with carrots. This “Zeytinyagli”(vegetables cooked in oil) recipe is wonderfully refreshing and comforting all through the year. Traditionally, we like to cook zeytinyagli dishes ahead of time, and allow the dish to cool and rest in its pan for the flavors to blend well.

The recipe is very easy to make, delicious and healthy – also vegan and gluten-free. You can keep in the fridge up to 3 days (flavors blend even better the next day!) and we serve them cold or room temperature. This recipe made a wonderful lunch for me with some crusty bread and squeeze of lemon by the side. You can serve as an appetizer, meze or as a side dish to accompany main dishes.

Turkish cuisine is based on seasonal produce and offers delicious, wholesome, easy to make meals, most of them good for vegan and gluten-free diet too. This and over 90 authentic Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland and delivered promptly worldwide. Signed copies are available to order at this link – while the stocks last! – if you’d like.

If you live in the US, Canada or Mexico, you can order a copy at this link, with lower shipping rates.

Serves 4 – 6
Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 35 minutes

500 gr/1.1 lb fresh leeks, washed and sliced diagonally into bite size pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
15 ml/1 tablespoon long grain rice, washed and drained
60 ml/2 fl oz/1/4 cup olive oil
240 ml /8 fl oz / 1 cup hot water
5 ml/1 teaspoon salt
5 ml/1 teaspoon caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Chopped fresh dill for garnish (optional)
Lemon wedges to squeeze over

In a wide, heavy pan, gently heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and carrots for 5 minutes. Add the leeks and stir occasionally, taking care so they don’t scorch. When the vegetables start to soften, add the rice, hot water, lemon juice, salt and sugar.

Cover and cook gently over low heat for about 20 minutes or until the rice and vegetables are tender and the cooking liquid is absorbed. Avoid stirring during cooking, as this will disturb starch in the grains of rice.

Remove from the heat, cover with an absorbent kitchen cloth or paper towel and replace the lid. This will help to absorb any excess moisture. Set aside to cool.

Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with chopped dill if you would like. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over and some crusty bread by the side.

Afiyet Olsun,


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Runner (green) beans cooked in olive oil; Zeytinyagli Taze Fasulye

Green beans or runner beans cooked in olive oil with vegetables; Zeytinyagli Taze Fasulye

Green beans or runner beans cooked in olive oil with vegetables; Zeytinyagli Taze Fasulye

I was delighted to spot some lovely runner beans in my local market the other day; they are packed with flavor and freshness and we like to cook them in olive oil with onions and tomatoes.

This is such an easy, delicious and healthy vegetarian course that you can serve as a starter or an accompaniment to grilled meat. Green beans cooked this way are a great national favorite. Enjoyed by the urban and rural families alike, there are varying theories of how to achieve the best result. Traditionally, zeytinyagli dishes (vegetables cooked in olive oil) are prepared in advance and served at room temperature, as a meze or vegetable course. French, runner and dwarf beans are all suitable to be prepared this way. Once cooked, you can store in the fridge for a good 2-3 days.


I am passionate about healthy, delicious Turkish cuisine; this recipe and over 90 healthy, authentic Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies are now 30 % Off at this link for a limited period and delivered worldwide including USA and Canada; we do hope it helps with healthy, delicious home cooking, especially at this lockdown period.

Afiyet Olsun,


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

500 gr / 1.1 lb runner (green) beans, trimmed and cut into 3 pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
45 ml /3 tablespoon olive oil
400 gr / 14 oz canned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and black pepper to taste
lemon wedges to serve

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the beans and canned tomatoes and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes. Pour over the water, add the sugar, season with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to the boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 35 minutes. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool in the pan. İn Turkish cooking, it is important for the the vegetables cooked in oil to cool and rest in the pan it is cooked for the flavors to blend well.

Transfer to a serving dish and serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over.

Afiyet Olsun,


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