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Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) with Cypriot-Style Vegetables

We went on holiday to Cyprus at the end of August and were pleased to find that, in the coastal areas round Paphos at least, all restaurants had a wide selection (4-8 dishes) of vegetarian dishes as well as the expected fish and usual Greek fare.

In the Faros restaurant in Coral Bay I had a “vegetarian platter”, which turned out to be various sliced and fried vegetables, it was a lot more interesting and pleasant than it sounds. Another day in a quayside restaurant in Paphos near to the House of Dionysus I had a vegetable meze, which was dolmades, and various sliced and fried vegetables.

We were self-catering, so one late afternoon we stopped at a roadside vegetable market on the edge of a banana plantation and bought our day’s fresh vegetables with the intention of making something based upon some of the dishes we’d eaten in restaurants. A small supermarket in Coral Bay provided a tin of dolmades, which when opened and eaten revealed that tinned dolmades were probably what the restaurants used too – but more of that later.

I have since recreated the dish at home; this time making the dolmades myself and the recipe below is for homemade dolmades.

Ingredients

Dolmades

 

You will need For the Dolmades

1 pack vine leaves
8oz rice
Large bunch of mint
1 onion
Olive oil for frying

For the rest

12 Dolmades (above or tin of ready made)
2 large onions
1 baby marrow (about 10cm long and 3cm diameter – more like a large courgette)
1 baby aubergine (dimensions as marrow)
4 large tomatoes
1 tablespoon Marmite
Olive oil for frying

Method

Prepare the leaves as on the pack (usually drain, soak 20mins, dry)
Cook the rice and drain
Chop and gently fry the onions until transparent
Remove stems and coarsely chop the mint
Mix rice onions and mint together and season to taste
In each vine leaf, put 2 teaspoons of mixture, fold over sides and roll into a tube about 4cm long and 2cm diameter (OK I don’t expect you to measure them but if you haven’t seen them before…)

You will probably have enough for 24+ dolmades
Place all the dolmades in a large shallow pan (a frying pan is probably best) and pack them in tightly 1 layer deep so they don’t unravel.
Just cover with water and place a plate on top to press them down.
Bring to boil and gently simmer for 30 minutes.

Main dish
Switch the oven on to 200C
Slice and gently fry the onions until transparent
Thinly slice the marrow and aubergine (about 2-4mm) but don’t drain or dry
Heat oil in a shallow pan until quite hot but not smoking
Quickly fry the sliced vegetables on each side so the outsides are browned but the middles are still moist, remove and drain on kitchen paper
(Re-)heat the dolmades if necessary by placing in a shallow pan, bringing to the boil and simmering for 5 minutes.
Slice the tomatoes though not as thinly as the marrow. You can fry these as well but I prefer to leave them raw.
Arrange the slices of vegetables around the edge of an ovenproof plate or serving platter and dribble with olive oil and season.
Pile up the onions in the centre and dribble over the Marmite. Then arrange the dolmades on the mound of onions.
Place in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Serve.

Verdict, the UK version was good, but the Cypriot version was better. Vegetables out there would be rejected here as too blemished and too “ripe”, but being able to buy fresh vegetables when they are just ready with no need to buy more than what you need for the next meal means the taste is supreme. Here with all the requirements of storage, shelf life and “looks” mean some of that spark is lost. Also, I don’t see any virtue in making dolmades from scratch (not my usual stance on these things). The tinned ones were just as good and save at least an hour’s preparation time!

Dave Wardell

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