Stuffed Grape Leaves
My first blog entry.. and I am starting off with my mother's recipe for a traditional Turkish dish called yaprak sarma'si, or just sarma, like most people in Turkey call it. Sarmas are stuffed grape leaves. They are the ultimate finger food and are often served as a side dish with a dot of yoghurt. Sarma is so loved at our home that we have it as a main dish most of the time. :)
While most sarma recipes have ground meat listed as one of their main ingredients, mine will be totally vegan - well, if you serve them without the yoghurt of course. ;) If you are a big meat lover, then by all means, add some ground meat to your sarma. But I can assure you that you won't miss it for a second. Even the biggest meat lovers haven't complained about the lack of it in my mother's sarma!
- 50-60 fresh or preserved grape leaves (+ a few extra to cover the bottom of the pan)
- 1 of cup rice
- 2 small tomatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Handful of parsley
- Handful of dill
- 3/4 cup of water
- 1/2 tbsp of dried mint or a few fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- Lemon juice of 1/2 lemon or a few slices lemon to put on top while cooking
- 1 tbsp of salca (Turkish mixed paprika/tomato or pure tomato paste, sundried)
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 tsp of ground pepper
- 1 tsp salt - if you are using salty preserved grape leaves, then skip adding extra salt as the salca is already salty enough
Chop the onion, tomatoes, parsley, dill and garlic finely. Set a cooking or frying pan on medium heat and in it combine the rice, salca, chopped tomatoes, onion and the water. Stir for two or three minutes until the salca is mostly disolved. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, dill, dried or fresh mint and the spices. Continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes. You don't want your rice to be cooked thoroughly, the real cooking will come later. This is just a little startup.
Set your rice mixture aside to cool before you go on with rolling/stuffing your sarma. Meanwhile start rinsing your grape leaves. If you are using salty preserved grape leaves like I do, make sure to rinse them well.
Now you can go on with the actual stuffing!
Follow the steps in the picture. Put about two teaspoons of the rice mixture on the inside of a leave, spread out evenly, roll little bit, fold the edges and roll them up again. (it will go faster after the first few, promise ;))
If you haven't given up after 10 and actually made all 50-60 of them, then we can go on with arranging the sarmas in your cooking pan. :) First make sure to cover the bottom of the pan with the few extra grape leaves. This is to prevent the sarmas from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Then you can start arranging them. It's important that you make sure that there isn't too much space left between the sarmas. Take a special sarma disk or a porcelain plate and put it upside down on top of the sarmas. This will help the sarmas hold their figure. :)
(If you choose to put lemon juice in the rice mixture, then skip adding the extra lemon slices like you are seeing in the pictures)
Add water to the cooking pan (if you are using a plate, do this before you add the water), the water should cover the sarmas, but not or barely toch the sides of your disk or your plate.
Put the cooking pan on medium-high heat untill the water starts cooking. When the water cooks, turn your heat to low and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes. I like my rice to be cooked thoroughly, if you prefer your rice to be more al dente, then 30 minutes should do fine.
Serve your sarma with Turkish yoghurt and/or some paprika powder sprinkled on top of it!
(Have a nice meal!)