Today, since I had a whole day to dedicate my time to making something delicious for my family to enjoy, I decided to make a classic Greek dish – Dolmadakia. Dolmadakia have many names depending on the region they are made in. Some enjoy them as the start to a sumptuous meal. Others enjoy them as a main course. In my family we have enjoyed them both as an appetizer and a main course. You can make them with or without meat and you can substitute ground beef for ground lamb which is common in some other Mediterranean countries. The art of making dolmadakia is time-consuming because each dolma is rolled individually creating delicious little packets of cooked meat and rice flavoured with traditional Greek seasonings. Eat them at room temperature with a shot of ouzo to get the party started or eat them hot out of the pan with your favourite crusty bread you can’t go wrong with these satisfying morsels of Greek goodness.
Traditionally, the art of cooking heirloom recipes is passed down from generation to generation through the womenfolk of a family because usually these recipes are time-consuming to make, patience is needed to assemble and a love of nurturing is necessary to recreate. Today, my son Alejandro helped me with making his favourite Greek dish. Although he is my son and not my daughter; hopefully, his curiosity of food continues and grows with him so that he too one day can pass along the heirloom recipes I learned from the womenfolk of my family.
Here is what you need
1 jar of grape leaves
750g of ground meat (used beef but you can use lamb)
2 bunches of green onions, thinly chopped
1 cup of *brown or white rice
2 tbsp of mint
2 cups of boiled water
Here is what you do
1. Remove the grapes leaves from the jar and gently pull them apart and lay on a flat surface such as a baking sheet covering with a tea towel. This is to help absorb any excess liquid and keeps the leaves flat, ready for assembly.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground meat, green onions, rice, mint, 1 of the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are combined. Set aside.
3. To prepare the dolmadakia you will need a flat work surface such as a large cutting board, a spoon and a large roasting pan.4. To roll a dolmadaki you need to spoon in the meat and rice filling in the middle of the grape leaf right in the heart of the leaf, this way you will be able to fold the sides over the filling.
5. Fold one side of the leaf over the filing followed by the other side.
6. Once you have folded both sides of the leaf over the filling now roll the dolmadaki away from you creating a little pillow.7. Assemble into a roasting pan. The ingredients yield about 75 small dolmadakia or 50 large dolmadakia depending on the size of the spoon you use. If you use a soup spoon your dolmadakia will be larger in size and may need two grape leaves to roll the filling in well without any exposure. If you use a dessert spoon you will have smaller, bite size dolmadakia ideal for appetizers.
8. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze over the dolmadakia, pour a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. If you have left over grape leaves place them on top of the dolmadakia to create a blanket affect so that the dolmadakia do not float during the cooking process. You want to pack the dolmadakia snug in the pan so that they do not float and unravel. Pour the 2 cups of boiled water over the covered dolmadakia to assist with the cooking process.
9. Cook the dolmadakia in a 425 F preheated oven for 45 to 75 minutes depending on the type of rice you use. If you use white rice cook for a shorter period of time, however if you are using brown rice the pan will need to be in the oven for at least 75 minutes. At 45 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked.
10. Once the dolmadakia are cooked uncover and gather the pan juices and set aside. While the pan juices are cooling down beat the other egg along with the other half of the lemon to create an egg drop. Allow the egg drop to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before adding the pan juices. If you add the pan juices to quickly after removing from the pan the egg with scramble and you will not have a desired texture for the avgolemono sauce. Slowly whisk the pan juices into the egg drop until the contents meld together to create a silky sauce.
11. Pour the avgolemono sauce over the dolmadakia, swirl the pan around a couple of times to allow the avgolemono to cover each dolma and place in a warm oven for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken slightly.
Alternative cooking method
If you don’t have a roasting pan and want to make your dolmades in a pot, the cooking method is slightly different. Also, if you want to use brown rice instead of white rice, you need to make an extra step in the assembly of the filling.
- Parboil the brown rice for 15 to 20 minutes before mixing it in with the rest of the filling. There are 2 reasons to do this. First, the brown rice will expand too much when it is wrapped up and then it will break the leaf packets. It will be a mess. Second, brown rice usually takes a longer length of time to cook.
2. Instead of placing the dolmades in a pan you can arrange them in a pot, layer by layer. Pour in the olive oil, lemon juice and boiled water as you would in the pan but also you need to place a heavy plate on top of the dolmades so that they don’t float around too much in the pot. You don’t want the dolmades to come apart.