With Melbourne having the second largest Greek population in the world outside of Athens, it is no wonder that Melbourne boasts some of the worlds best Greek restaurants. Their food is fresh, quick to prepare and tangy. I do love a vegetarian mezethes (thats Greek for small dishes, like tapas), picking at amazing taste sensations with a wonderful loaf of bread and a great glass of red for hours and hours!
Margaret is one of my oldest friends. She didn't want me to take a photo of her while cooking so I stole her pic off Facebook (lol!). Margaret and her sister Alex are non identical twins and I met Alex at art school (my first attempt at art school!) when I was 19. They are of Greek heritage and we have always indulged in our passion for food over the years, cooking, baking, trying new recipes and sharing what we have learnt. Last weekend, I met up with Alex and Margaret and we made a wonderful Greek feast, indulging our taste buds. I chose to focus on the Dolmathes (stuffed vine leaves) we made as it is one of my favourite Greek foods and there is a BIG difference between home made and store bought.
Traditionally, the leaves are picked off the vine and blanched in salted water, but we just used a jar of vine leaves in brine that you can get at any supermarket stocking European foods.
What you need;
34 grape vine leaves
1 cup medium grain rice
2 Tbls olive oil
1/2 bunch dill
1/2 bunch parsley
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Start by rinsing the grape vine leaves under running water to wash off the brine and set aside to drain. Keep four to one side to use on the base of your cooking pot.
Wash and finely chop the fresh herbs, set aside. Finely chop the onion.
Place oil in a pot and saute onions until transparent. Wash the rice under running water while the onion is cooking. Once the onion is cooked, toss in the rice and cook on a medium heat for five minutes, stirring often. The aim with the rice at this stage is to coat it just as you do when cooking Risotto.
When the rice is ready, take off the flame and let cool a little. Once cool, toss into the awaiting bowl with the chopped fresh herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now the fun begins!!!
Place a leaf on a board and 'open' it up so it lays flat, making sure the 'veins' of the leaf are facing up. Add a tablespoon of the rice mixture towards the bottom of the leaf, remembering the rice will swell up once cooked. Now you're ready for the rolling!
The pictures above show you step by step how to roll. Start by folding over one side of the leaf to cover the rice mixture, followed by bringing in the other side. Lift the side closest to you up and over the mixture and start to roll the Dolmathes into a sausage shape. Continue this process until all finished.
In the same pot you used to saute the onion and rice, line the base with the four vine leaves you set aside earlier. This will prevent the bottom ones from burning. Gently place the Dolmathes into the pot, carefully stacking as you go along. Add 3/4 cup of water.
Place a plate over the Dolmathes and then the lid on the pot. Cook on a medium/low heat for about half an hour. Check if cooked by trying one; the rice should be just right.
I love Dolmathes cold and by themselves but this was actually the first time I tried them warm. and I must say, i didn't mind it at all. Margaret served them with a cold yogurt/mint sauce (made by adding shredded mint, squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt to Greek style yogurt) and wedges of lemon.
BTW, how '1970's cookbook' do these photo's look this week?!?!?!