‘Stuffed Grape Leaves‘ is one of the most popular Turkish dishes. It is one of those dishes that is always requested by everyone. It is not made that often because it takes time to stuff and roll the leaves. This delicious dish needs more effort to make than other dishes. It is on the top of the to-do list when we have guests for dinner or a family gathering. In Turkish cuisine, we have two types of Stuffed Grape Leaves dishes. The first one is meatless with vegetarian filling and it serves cold. The second option is with meat and serves hot.
In Turkish cuisine, we can stuff vegetables with rice, herb mixture, or meat. In Turkish cuisine, we say; ‘we can stuff any food’. We fill the tomatoes, various types of peppers, eggplants, and many others.
The Story of Stuffed Grape Leaves
‘Stuffed’ word means ‘Dolma’ in Turkish and it is the action of filling. The Middle East countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran are also using the same word of ‘Dolma’ to represent their stuffed dishes.
The Turks started to make stuffed dishes after they start agriculture besides animal husbandry for a living. After the spread of agriculture around the country, new food types start to get into the cuisine. Turks start to preserve summertime cultivated foods to consume at wintertime. So most of the dried ingredients we use while making stuffed dishes, are the result of this.
After Ottoman Empire starts to cultivate olive trees and produce olive oil; the Palace kitchen started to use olive oil in most of the foods cooked in the palace kitchen as an important ingredient. The birthplace of Stuffed Grade Leaves is the Ottoman Palace’s kitchen and it was one the favorite olive oiled dish of the Ottoman Sultans Let’s roll some grape leaves.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
- 2 cups rice rinsed well
- 1 cup tomatoes peeled and chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 225 g (1/2 lb) grape leaves fresh/preserved
- 2/3 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 3 cups warm water
- 2 tbsp dried mint
- 1/2 lemon sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
Leave the rice in warm water for 15 minutes, then wash and drain.
Pour 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to the saucepan and onions and saute them. Add the rice and stir about 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir them at medium-low heat.
Add dried mint, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, salt, sugar and pine nuts in to the sauce pan. Add the warm 1 cup of hot water and stir them 5 minutes at medium-low heat.
Preparing the Grape Leaves
If you are using fresh grape leaves; put them in boiling water and cook for 5 minutes until they become soft. Drain and remove the stems. If you are using preserved grape leaves, just remove the stems and wash them in a cold water to remove salty preserving mix on the leaves.
Making the dish
Place each leaf on a plate or cutting board. Shiny side of the leaf will remain at down. You can see how to place the fill to the leaves at side image. (Do not roll too tight or too lose).
Place the stuffed and rolled grape leaves side by side into saucepan. Place the lemon slices on the surface and add 2 cups of warm water.
Pour 2 cups of warm water and put a plate on top them to give some weight. Close the saucepan lid and cook at low heat for 45 minutes until the water is absorbed.
Let it cool and serve with lemon slices and yogurt.