One of the most well-known Greek delicacies is the dolma. This is a food you will find made in many variations in every area of Greece and in every season. The name ‘dolma’ was borrowed by the Greeks from the Turks, however the food itself stems from ancient Greece. The ancient Greek dolmades were called ‘Thria’-Θρία-and they were made with tender fig leaves!
As centuries passed, the idea was adopted by the Ottoman Empire’s cuisine, while the Greeks adopted the Turkish names. That is why their name varies from area to area: ‘Sarmades’ from Turkish ‘sarmak’ which means to wrap, ‘Yaprakia’ from ‘yaprak’ which means ‘leaf’ and ‘Dolma’ from ‘dolmak’ which means to fill. The ones without any meat filling are called ‘Yalantzi’ from the Turkish ‘yalan’ meaning fake – the notion of non-meat filling was unknown to the Ottoman cuisine, so the rice, herb and pulse fillings were considered to produce ‘mock’ dolmades.
The variations you can find the dolma in, are many and very interesting. They can be made with an array of different ingredients and leaves: when vine leaves were not available in the winter, borage leaves were used in the past and you will also find cabbage leaf dolmades to be very popular all over Greece. In many areas basil or sorrel leaves were used traditionally, as well as lettuce. In Crete and other islands they make dolmades with courgette flowers, in Symi they use cyclamen leaves and fill them with lentils or fava. The dolmades in Cyprus are called ‘Kupepia’ and they have a strong presence of cumin and lemon. The mini dolmades of Kasos island are famous for their miniature size and buttery meat filling. Dolmades also come with different sauces: egg and lemon sauce ‘avgolemono’ or in some islands with tomato.
No matter how many variations you will find, one thing is for sure – Greeks love their dolmades! The most popular are the ones made with vine leaves, and filled with rice and herbs, as they are great for periods of lent, easy for the average household to make, and very very tasty! We know you love them as much as we do, as we daily wrap around 2,200 dolmades to serve in our restaurants. All done by hand, in the traditional way, with a super tasty filling. We source the leaves directly from Greece of course, as we want our dolmades to have the most authentic flavour possible.
Our vine leaf supplier is Lisko Foodstuff Ltd, based in Larnaca, Cyprus. They are a family run small high-end factory of artisan produce, and they provide us with the best quality vine leaves.
Our producer says: “The best vine leaves to make dolmades with, are those of the Sultanina variety. The leaves are light coloured and silky. The best time to collect vine leaves is in May, and all through spring. Fresh leaves were dried in the past-they used to hang them in a shady place until dry and dip them in boiling hot water for 2-3 minutes when they wanted to use them in the winter-but as the years passed, this method was forgotten, and the vine leaves are mostly kept in brine, or like in our case, flash-frozen”.
Koubebia Dolmades – Lamb & rice stuffed vine leaves.
These wonderful little cigar shaped delicacies are a mini meal in themselves, rice, lamb, herbs tomato all in a delicious bite. You can find vine leaves in many supermarkets now, but my suggestion is to grow your own, plant a little vine and watch it flourish, in September collect the leaves, roll them in foil and pop them in the freezer and you will have vine leaves all year long.
You can also make a wonderful vegetarian version by substituting the pork for mushrooms and pine nuts
1 cup Olive oil
1 kilo course ground pork mince meat
2 onions chopped finely
1 tin tomatoes
1/2 bunch parsley finely chopped
Handful of dried mint
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup pudding rice (approx 200g)
Salt & pepper to taste.
1 bunch of vine leaves
In a saucepan put 2/3 tbsp. of olive (do not over heat the oil), then add onions and sweat but do not brown.
Add tin of tomatoes, crushing. Add parsley, mint & cinnamon.
Add meat & rice and season well
You are sealing the meat not cooking it.
Have the mixture in the saucepan, prepared vine leaves in plate, and ovenproof dish ready to put rolled dolmades in.
Destalk the vine leaves and roll up with the smooth side on the outside
To roll put a teaspoon of the mixture on leaf, roll over and tuck both sides in the roll to make a little cigar shape. ( ‘koubebia’ which means little cigars)
Once all are in oven dish, preferably circular, pour the juice of 1 lemon over the top.
Spread any remaining vine leaves on top like a blanket.
Place a plate on top upside down.
Pour boiling water into your dish just up to where it touches the plate.
Cover & put in the oven for half an hour at 200C
And then lower for a following half an hour at 180C
Dolmades with fig, feta & wheat berries.
Ancient historians have traced back possible origins of this way of serving food to the Ancient city of Thebes. They have been called by various names, but they all are a type of food with rice or wheat-berries or barley, mixed with either lamb or pork & spices or vegetarian versions have them stuffed with mushrooms or dried fruit & cheese.
INGREDIENTS: (Makes 20)
20 vines leaves
1 onion chopped
100g wheat berries (soaked over night & cooked for ½ hour)
1 small bunch chopped fresh mint
50g semi-dried figs chopped
50g pine kernels
100g feta cheese.
Place the onions with two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté lightly until the onions have become transparent.
Add the wheatberries, mint & figs & mix well on a low heat for 2-3 minutes.
Take off the heat & add the feta, crumbling into the mixture & mixing well.
Lay the vine leaf out flay, vein side up spoon a heaped tablespoon into the bottom centre of the leaf, roll up then tuck in both the sides & continue to roll until snug.
Repeat until you have them all rolled & tightly fitted into a saucepan, cover with water, & another tablespoon of olive oil.
Then put on a medium gas heat for 25-30 minutes.
Looking for a Greek Vegan Dolmades Recipe? Head over to our YouTube Channel for more: https://youtu.be/aqlzgGvNUfg