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Few things can compare to the divine taste of home-made Greek dolmades. The option to get them ready made are plenty. With a little effort, though, you can actually enjoy your own, very tasty vine leaves wraps, dolmadakia, and you will find these are far superior in taste.
Dolmades are a recipe valid all year round, although the ingredients used, although specific, do not have a precise seasonality. Rice and vine leaves are in fact always available, just identify the right quality for this recipe.
What can vary throughout the year is the type of dolmades consumed. For example, during the period of Lent in which no meat is consumed, vegetarian dolmades are usually offered, which in Greek are also called gialantzi.
It is a lighter version but no less tasty, usually the lemon stands out as the prevailing taste in this type of recipe. During the rest of the year, meat is usually added to make them even better.
Each region also has its own type of dolmades, so it is not difficult to taste different varieties if you travel a bit around the country.
The origins of this recipe can be traced back to the Middle East. The Turkish translation of the word Dolmak for example means "to fill". More generally, all the middle eastern countries have their own version and presence of this tasty recipe in their traditional cuisine.
Dolmadakia, traditionally is one of the spring dishes. Imagine yourself picking through a handful of green, tender new leaves off the vines, get a handful of herbs from the herb garden and complement these with a little bit of rice. If you fancy you could add a bit of mince meat as well, but the truth is dolmadakia taste far better in their vegetarian version.
Dolmadakia is a very old dish, many say it goes as far back as Alexander The Great. In the many years the dish has been enjoyed, dolmadakia tend to be more a cooking technique than just a tasty appetizer. Whilst in spring you wrap the vine leaves, in winter these are replaced by cabbage leaves. This is where the stuffing often changes from vegetarian to a hearty meat one, with just a little bit of mince meat.
But let’s go make them. Once you start on it, dolmadakia will become such a staple, you will never stop. Added bonus you can enjoy them either at room temperature or cold with a little bit of Greek yogurt to the side.
1. Open the jar of vine leaves, place them in a strainer and rinse very well before using.
2. For the stuffing, finely chop and sauté your onion and spring onion. Add the herbs, mint parsley finely chopped and in a couple of minutes stir in your rice.
3. Add to this half the olive oil and hot water just enough to cover. Bring it to the boil and let it cook for 4-5 minutes in boiling water. Remove from the heat, cover with a clean towel and let it stand for another 10 min.
4. Once the rice and herbs mix is ready, add salt and pepper. You are ready to start stuffing your vine leaves.
5. If there are any torn vine leaves, keep them aside as you will need these to cover the bottom of your pot.
6. Open each vine leaf with the veins surface facing you. Place a teaspoon of rice mix on the base of the leaf, fold in the sides and then roll tight. The thinner the dolmadaki the more obvious the artistry of the cook. Aim for a tight and tidy roll.
7. Once all the vine leaves are rolled, place a few leaves in the bottom of your pot and lay the ntolmadakia around in circles. Make sure there is as little free space between them as possible.
8. Fill in the pot with cold water, the remaining olive oil and lemon juice until the dolmadakia are covered. Then add a heavy plate on top! Yes, it is safe to do, just be a little careful handling it when hot. If you forget it, you will have a very messy pot, dolmadakia tend to move when in the boil. Boil in low to medium heat for 30-40 minutes.
And remember, the dolmades have to be served warm!
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