Stuffed grape leaves, known as dolmades, are one of the most popular Greek recipes, although it is not exclusive because dolmas are also prepared in the surrounding countries. Preparing stuffed grape leaves is time consuming, but not difficult.
- Brown lamb in a large skillet over a medium-high heat until cooked through. Stir frequently to keep the meat loose. Remove from heat, draining off fat, and set aside.
- Gently mix cooked rice, meat, sliced onions, currants, nuts, mint, salt, parsley, and olive oil in a bowl.
- Place one teaspoon of the meat and rice mixture on a grape leaf and fold to make a parcel. Repeat this procedure with the rest of the leaves until all filling is used.
- Arrange the stuffed leaves in layers in a large saucepan, joint side down. Sprinkle one tablespoon of lemon juice over each layer.
- Pour any remaining lemon juice, the beef broth, and the water over the stuffed grape leaves.
- Cover saucepan and cook over low heat for 1 hour. Remove from heat and allow the dolmades to cool a little.
- Serve the stuffed leaves warm, garnished with lemon wedges.
Meat stuffed dolmades are served warm while rice stuffed dolmades are served at room temperature or slgihtly chilled.
To make vegetarian dolmades, just substitute all the meat with and extra cup of cooked rice and double the amount of nuts and currants. Use vegetable broth instead of beef broth.
First, drain grape leaves in a colander to remove the canning juices. Then rinse in cool running water with care not to break them. Pat dry with paper towels or simply let them drain on them. Use a knife to cut stems off, if the leaves still have them.
How to stuff a grape leaf
- Place a grape leaf on a plate, shiny side down. Make sure the leaf is flat.
- Place one teaspoon of filling in the middle.
- Fold stem end over filling.
- Fold left and right sides, one at a time, over filling. The filling should be completely enclosed.
- Now it is time to roll up. Start from the stem end and roll toward the tip of the leaf until you make a compact roll.
- To seal the edges, squeeze the roll in the palm of your hand, with all due care so that the delicate grape leaf casing does not break.
Be thrifty with rice fillings. No need to say you should not wrap grape leaves tight as rice will expand when cooked and may break them.
It is difficult to hold the stuffed grape leaves in place while they are cooking, something heavy, such as baking dish or a large heat resistant plate dish, on top of the stuffed grape may do the trick. You may try to hold each one with cocktail sticks, but it is not so neat.