I like to use fresh grape leaves to make dolmades, and I use a Cypriot recipe as it is the recipe I grew up with. This dish is definitely a labour of love but is so worth it. Recipe given to me by my grandmother.
If you are using fresh grape leaves, you will need to prepare them first. Then roll the dolmades and steam them. The way my family would make them is to steam them in a tomato paste with lemon. This would give them extra flavor. You don't have to use the tomato and you could steam them in water and lemon juice. Either way, they should have a strong lemon flavor.
Delicious eaten hot or cold.
1 bunch of fresh grape leaves.
Ingredients for filling:
1 cup of rice
1 onion chopped
1/4 cup of chopped mint (use fresh)
Pine nuts or chopped walnuts
Ingredients for sauce
1 small tin tomato puree mixed with 1/2 cup of water
Juice of 1 lemon
First blanch the leaves. Wash them well and cut off the stems. Boil a pot of water and drop them in for a minute or two. They should not become so soft that they break but they should be soft enough to be able to roll. When ready, remove them from the pot and pat dry.
Fry onion in olive oil until soft. Then add raw rice, salt and mint. Add the nuts and allow to cool.
Roll the leaves with the rice mixture. Place a tablespoon of rice in the centre of the leaf. Fold the bottom over and then the left side of the leaf, and then the right. Then roll and place at the bottom of the pot.
Create rows of rolled dolmades at the bottom of the pot. Put the fold facing downwards into the bottom of the pot. Pack them tightly so that they won't open when cooking. You can layer them. Once all the leaves have been rolled, either pour the tomato paste if using or otherwise 1/2 cup of water. Then squeeze the juice of one lemon and add to the pot.
Place a heavy plate face down over the dolmades to prevent them from floating or lifting and to secure them in place. Cover the pot with lid.
Then bring water to the boil and then drop to a gentle simmer and steam them until the rice is cooked. Keep adding water as necessary.
Serve hot or cold with lemon wedges, olives and tzatziki.