My Big Fat Greek Faff
Big respect to my Greek Mamas. These seemingly harmless little rolls of deliciousness were absolutely the most fiddliest faffiest thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of cooking. I have a new found respect for anyone who can perfectly roll these little vine cigars, without; a) lamb mice spilling out everywhere, or b) without internal cortisol levels exploding off the scale (both a and b in my case). I usually find this sort of culinary exercise therapeutic - but that was before I’d worked with vine leaves. Still, the end product was absolutely worth the effort, and they tasted just like I was hoping. So there you go! Hard work will be rewarded.
In a twist to the conventional Mediterranean rice stuffed leaves the now somewhat ‘traditional Paleo’ version uses grated cauliflower – an example of which I sampled at Pure Taste Pop Up last week. Attempting a cauliflower with lamb recipe has been on my ever increasing ‘to cook’ list for yonks. Its also taken me yonks to find vine leaves suitable to use. I found mine by actually asking rather than searching (I’m obviously vine leaf blind) in my local Turkish shop. Apparently they can also be found in Asda (Melis is the brand I used and you should look for). Or you could of course raid your nearest vine yard for some REAL ones… Though who lives near a vineyard?? not me!!
These were really good. They tasted just like I’d hoped, and not far from those I’ve sampled in Greece before now. However I wish I’d added some sultanas and pine nuts for a more extravagant taste – and perhaps some cumin too – but people – I’m currently on a budget exercise and working with what I have in the cupboards. Feel free to fragrance the lamb with whatever Mediterranean spices you are accustomed to.
Fact of the day: Dolmades are also known in Cyprus as Koupepia, according to my Brother in Law’s Cypriot family!
Ingredients (makes approx 32)
- coconut oil
- 500g lamb mince
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 1 Tablespoon All spice
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 125g grated cauliflower (about 3/4 of a whole head)
- Handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
- Juice of a lemon
- Water to cover
- Fry the garlic in a dollop of coconut oil, when softened add the meat, spices, stir to coat then keep frying till the meat brown (approx 5-6 mins).
- Next add the grated cauliflower and fry for another 2-3 mins. Take off the heat, squeeze over the juice of half a lime and stir through the chopped parsley. Leave to cool while you prepare your vine leaves.
- Gently unroll and flatten the vine leaves (they will be rolled up together if in a jar with brine as mine were, and were quite fiddly to pull apart). It is preferable to count out enough vine leaves at this stage so you’re ready to get a rhythm going with the rolling. It gets a bit messy!
- Ready to roll? 1) Place the vine leaf with the rough veiny side up, and put a heaped teaspoon of the meat mixture in the middle (top left). 2) Fold up the bottom (top right). 3) Fold over the right side (bottom left), then the left tucking the top and edges in as you go. 4) Place the vine leafs in a deep frying pan with the loose edge facing the bottom of the pan (bottom right). You should get approx 32 out of this recipe. You can stack them in the pan if necessary, but don’t go more than 2 deep.
- Squeeze the juice of a whole lemon over the pan, and cover the vine leaves with a plate to keep them in place whilst they cook. Now pour in enough water so that the edges of the plate are submerged. Bring the water to a light simmer, then cook on low for 40-45 minutes.
- After 40-45 mins drain off the liquid, leave the pan to cool (leave the plate on at this stage) then remove and eat!
I took mine to a picnic, but they’d make a great canapé, or part of a meze meal with other dishes such as Tabbouleh, Butternut Squash Dip, Meatballs, or other yummy things from my Recipe Index. You’ll find I’m a huge meze fan!
What dishes would be in your ultimate meze platter?