Every time I visit my parents in Baku, Azerbaijan – that is where I am now – making Stuffed Grape Leave Rolls or Dolma with my mother is a must. I have to admit that my mother’s dolma is one of my favorite dishes simply because my mama is an excellent cook!
The name Dolma comes from the verb dolmag which translates from Azerbaijani as to be stuffed. There are many variations of this dish, but today, we made traditional Azerbaijani dolma, which is prepared with the filling consisting of ground beef, rice, herbs, salt, and pepper which is wrapped in grape leaves; we used fresh grape leaves, which is a luxury for those of us who live in Alaska. Luckily, I can find jarred grape leaves in grocery stores in the US, so I can make my favorite kind of dolma whenever I feel like it.
Prep: 1 hr Cook: 1 hr Total: 2 hr
1/2 lbs fresh grape leaves (weight before washing), washed or one 1 lbs jar of grape leaves
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup round short grain rice, rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup spring onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
pepper to taste
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup butter (optional)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups beef broth, chicken broth or water ( you might need less or no salt if you are using high sodium broth)
1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, rice, onion, spring onion, cilantro, dill, mint, pepper, and salt. Set it aside.
If using fresh grape leaves, in a large pot bring water to a boil, and place the grape leaves into the water. As soon as the leaves become softer and change their color, remove them from the pot using tongs or a slotted spoon. The young leaves will take about 30 seconds to soften, but the old ones (they will be thicker and larger than the younger leaves) might take up to 3 minutes. If using jarred leaves, in batches place them in a colander, and rinse off the brine. If jarred leaves are thick, blanch them for 2 or 3 minutes before using.
Remove the stems that stick out. Cut large leaves in half if you want to make your rolls smaller. Don’t discard damaged leaves; you can use them to patch holes. Place 1 tbsp or less of the filling on a ribbed side of a leaf. Roll it, tucking in the sides.
In a large pot, place the stuffed rolls seam side down next to each other in circles, and then arrange them in layers. Place the butter on top of the rolls. Cover them with a heat proof plate (microwave safe plate will work as well) to prevent them from moving around.
Pour the broth or water onto the plate. It should barely cover the rolls. Cover the pot, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the leaves are softened and the meat is cooked through.
Mix the garlic, salt and yogurt in a small bowl.
Serve warm with a dollop of the dressing.