Dolmades - Stuffed Vine Leaves (makes 24)

(adapted from The Curry Club’s Favourite Middle Eastern Recipes by Pat Chapman)

30 vine leaves (to allow for breakages)
Olive oil

200g cooked and cooled rice
50g onion, chopped and fried (about ½ a small onion)
50g pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp sultanas and/or dates, chopped
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp aromatic salt
1 tsp white sugar
¼ tsp sumac

1. Mix the stuffing ingredients together. The mixture should be cold and sticky enough for 24 vine leaves.
2. If the leaves are fresh, destalk and wash them. Blanch them in boiling water for 15 seconds. Strain and allow to cool. If the leaves are vacuum-packed or jarred in brine, you will need to wash out the brine in several cold water rinses.
3. Put the vine leaf flat on a work surface. Put a dollop of filling in the centre of the leaf part. Fold in the side leaves then roll it up like a little spring roll. It should be about 5 x 2 cm.
4. Oil an oven tray with the olive oil. Place the dolmades on it with the tip of the rolled leaf downwards. Do not squash them; just let them touch each other lightly. Brush them with olive oil and cover the tray with aluminium foil. Put into a preheated oven at 150˚C and cook for 20 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Nadia’s Notes:

· A HUGE regional variation on this recipe. I cobbled a few recipes together to make these.
· They were pretty easy, once I got the hang of rolling them. The biggest challenge was getting the vine leaves out of the jar! They are actually tougher than they look.
· I was surprised at the oven method of cooking them. I also read instructions for simmering them in liquid and using uncooked rice or orzo as fillings – obviously the simmering method would be required to cook the rice or orzo.
· I really felt the addition of tomato ketchup was wrong however in the end, it somehow tasted really good. Still seemed strange, though.
· These dolmades tasted quite fresh and did not have that oiliness you get with purchased ones. Yummy!

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