Why am I focusing on stuffed vine leaves?
Simply because summer is here at last, I am a seasonal cook, and this season features a lot of stuffed vine leaves! The best leaves come from Tokat, BTW. I always buy mine fresh from the local markets or pick them from the vine that persists in growing in our garden in Assos at this time of year, but they are available year-round in jars or salted.
These sarma are popularly called yalancı which means fake as the rice, pine nuts and currants are substitutes for meat in the stuffing.
|arranging the rolled vine leaves in the pan on a bed of leaves|
We were in Bodrum recently and visited several friends: at each, delicious meze were generously offered and each included yaprak sarma! So, seriously, this should be one that you get under your belt.
|a dish of cooked stuffed vine leaves garnished with lemon slices/zeytinyağlı yaprak sarma|
Sarma and dolma are different: sarma means rolled whilst dolma means stuffed. Typically you can roll cabbage and Swiss Chard leaves, and as here, vine leaves. Stuffing includes eggplant, tomatoes, and courgettes or marrow.
If you decide to include meat in your filling, then it must be served hot. If your stuffing is basically rice and onion, that means it will be a cold meze.
Making sarma is not so much difficult as a knack. The more you do, the more proficient you will become.
|stuffed vine leaves/ yaprak sarma, before being cooked|
I have made these sarma several times recently and each time the taste was different. I personally liked the last ones in which the lemony taste was more pronounced. As with all these meze, there is leverage for personal preference and that’s great – the only thing is, you have to experiment to discover what YOURS is!
|at my recent cooking class, everyone was amused by the different sizes!
You can see the middle one has been done back-to-front: the veiny side is uppermost!
Look at the difference in the pictures below: both are rice fillings but one is very red compared to the other and includes far more fresh herbs. Cinnamon is a given and so are pine nuts/çam fıstığı and tiny black currants/kuş üzümü. A touch of sugar is a good idea.
|in my house ..|
|in the village…|
- Soak the currants in warm water for 15-20 minutes. Drain them and set aside.
- To prepare the vine leaves, cover with enough cold water and bring to the boil. Add the leaves and leave for about 2 minutes to soften them. Turn off the gas and using a slotted spoon, remove from the water and place in a sieve. With a sharp knife, cut out the small protruding stalk from each leaf. Check if the central vein at that point is too hard: if it is, cut it out as the leaf will rip when you try to roll it. TIP: if the leaves are very fresh and new, you can simply snip the stalks off with your fingers.
- Set aside any leaves that are torn or not particularly great.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and gently sauté the pine nuts for about 2 minutes, until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them! Add the currants, onion, rice, sugar, cinnamon and 2 cups of hot water. Stir the mixture, cover the pan and cook gently for about 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. TIP: taste a few grains for doneness to make sure the rice is fully cooked before removing from the heat.
- Mix in the dill and parsley. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
- Let the stuffing cool for 30-40 minutes.
- Prepare your pan by lining it with those leaves that were too small or torn to be used. You can also use the stalks to make a base. The idea is to prevent the sarma from sticking to the base.
- To assemble the sarma, take one leaf at a time, shiny side down, and place 1 tbsp of the stuffing at the stalk end. Fold first one side over it, and then the other side and then firmly roll up the leaf, keeping the stuffing inside. You will soon get the knack of it!
- Arrange the sarma on top of the leaves in the pan, seam-side down. Pour 2 cups hot water, the olive oil and the lemon juice over them. Cover the sarma with any remaining leaves and place an ovenproof plate on top. (It should fit inside the pan). Cover with the lid and bring the liquid to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about 45 minutes or until the sarma are tender and the water has been absorbed.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the lemon wedges or slices.
- Serve at room temperature.
|moist and full of flavour: vine leaves stuffed with rice,pine nuts, currants and garnished with