Stuffed vine leaves go by many names in Mediterranean and middle-eastern cuisine such as Dolmades, Dolma, ντολμαδες or Waraq Enab. One thing is for sure, a flavoursome stuffing of just the right amount of lamb, rice and herbs makes for a great dolmadaki. These dolmades are layered in a bed of vine leaves, rolled in blanched sweet rainbow silverbeet ( chard ) and baked delicately so the heat circulates the sealed baking dish securing all the flavours inside.
There are many benefits to using silverbeet. Silverbeet can be sourced most of the year as opposed to fresh young grape vines that are only available in spring. Grape vines that have been on the tree too long, are too tough. As an alternative, you could use the preserved vine leaves and I suppose just like with anything not fresh the taste is not as ideal. Rainbow Chard leaves are a wonderful alternative.
Blanching rainbow silverbeet is much easier and faster than grape vines. Rainbow Silverbeet take 40 seconds to blanch and their shape allows for easier rolling. The other benefit of using chard instead of grape vines is that chard is sweeter and softer, making for a melt-in-your mouth experience.
Here is a favourite chard recipe, that I have to confess I would make at least once a month. The flavour is unmistakably Greek Traditional Dolmades, but with silverbeet instead of grape leaves – chard an ingredient that is widely available in Australia. They are an easy , healthy and the best dolmades recipe for Australian Tastes. Unmistakeably, Australian fusion flavours here.
Tender and sweet Rainbow Chard ( Silverbeet) are used in place of the grape vines leaves, filled with basmati rice, onion, herbs and mince. Sealed in a baking dish and gently baked in order to seal all the flavours together.
- 3 bunches Rainbow Silverbeet
- 1/2 cup finely chopped dill
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped mint
- 1 red onion finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves finelly chopped
- 2 ripe small tomatoes
- 1/2 cup basmati rice
- 250g lean lamb/beef mince
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 12 grapevine leaves ( optional )
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Fill another bowl with cold ice water.
- Trim off the tough stalky base off each chard leaf.
- Add Chard to gently simmering boiled water and cook until tenderized. Chard generally takes about 40 seconds. Remove the leaves, and transfer to the cold water. Remove, strain and lay flat on a plate. Blanch all your leaves, until you have a plate with Chard layered out on top of each other. Blanch grape leaves for 5 minutes, rinse in cold water. Set aside.
- Set a large saucepan over medium heat and heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the mince meat, and stir when the meat has began to cook on the side touching the pan. Stir, and allow to brown.
- Add the onions and garlic stirring until they have softened. Make sure there are no clumps in the mince.
- Add your cinnamon, herbs, and rice and continue cooking until onion is translucent.
- In a blender, blend one of the tomatoes until it is liquid. Add to your mince and rice mix, along with 1 cup of water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes on gentle heat with the lid partly on.
- Line your base of a large Corningware baking dish or Dutch Oven if you have one. See the Recommendation links below.
- Line the base with the grape vine leaves.
- Lay a rainbow chard leaf on your work surface. Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold each side, then roll tightly.
- Place the Chard Dolmades seam side down and arrange each one that you make - snuggly but not overtly tight next to each other.
- Pour the remainder of the olive oil over the top of the row of dolmades.
- Blend your last tomato, add one cup of water to the blended tomato, salt and pepper and pour the liquid over the sides and space between each dolma.
- Seal your baking dish with the lid, or foil ensuring the foil is tucked in.
- Bake at 180 degree Celsius for 30 minutes.
- Serve warm, at room temperature or cool. Drizzle lemon if you like prior to serving.
Always use fresh tomato, not passata or tinned tomato. The fresh tomato when exposed to heat releases a small amount of ascorbic acid to the mixture creating a chemical reaction with the olive oil and the onion, thus enhancing the flavour of the herbs, meat and rice. The quantity of tomato is quite small, so does not give that full-on tomato sauce colour - which we don't really want here. I find, the small amount of fresh tomato enhances the colour of the filling from a dull grey, to golden hueues, rather than the full-on tomato sauce colour.
Grape leaves, can be the jarred or fresh variety. If your using leaves from a jar steep the leaves in warm water for a while and rinse them. The leaves are quite salty.
The amount of time, the Chard Dolmades take to bake depends on the amount of time the rice was cooking in the saucespan, the type of rice, and how much liquid is in the dish and your oven temperature.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 160Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 29mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 7g
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For the Greeks that are reading this version of a Traditional Classic, I look forward to you trying this ντολμαδες συνταγη.
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I will have to try your version. The Rainbow Chard must make them sweet and tender.