Dolmades (vine leaf parcels) a la Caro

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This is my recipe for the classic Greek dish of vine leaf parcels. I should say I am not Greek, and have never been to Greece - but my friends rave about these so maybe I lived there in a past life.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves: 10+

Dietary guidance: v v 

Tags: starter · picnic · greek · rice · food · finger · vine ·


1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbspn olive oil
1/4 cup short grain rice
1/2 tspn cinnamon
250ml dry white wine
500ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you're vegetarian/vegan)
50g pine nuts or chopped almonds, toasted
1 handful flat-leafed (continental) parsley, chopped
1 packet preserved vine leaves
800g canned tomatoes in juice, chopped
juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)


Remove vine leaves from packaging and rinse well under running water to remove any preserving chemicals or excess salt, then place in a large bowl of cold water while you prepare the filling.

Filling: Fry onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is soft. Stir in rice and cinnamon and turn up heat to high for about a minute. Add 125ml (half a cup) each of the wine and stock (this should boil furiously straight away), then turn down heat and allow to simmer on a low heat until the liquid is absorbed. At this stage the rice should only be partially cooked - this is correct. Remove from heat and stir in the nuts and parsley.

Remove vine leaves from water and blot each with paper towel to remove any excess water as you go. Lay one leaf on your worktop, pile a teaspoon of rice mixture in the middle (near the base end works best), fold in the sides and then roll up to make a parcel. Lay each parcel into the bottom of a large, heavy-based saucepan. Repeat with remaining vine leaves and filling, packing the parcels into the pan as tightly as you can on one level.

Mix the chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, remaining wine and stock over the top of the dolmades to cover. If extra liquid is required to cover them, add whichever flavour you like - tomatoes, lemon, wine, stock, or even some water. Cover the parcels with a dinner plate to keep them weighed down, then put a lid on your pot. Simmer on low heat for an hour, checking occasionally to make sure the tomato mixture isn't drying out (although it should thicken).

Remove from heat and allow to cool down a little in the pot. When cool enough to handle, take the dolmades out of the pot and put them on a plate to serve either lightly warm or chilled.

The cooking tomato liquid is also delicious served on bread. Any unused vine leaves are great for baking meat and seafood - try wrapping up oily fish like mackeral or sardines, or gamey meats like quail... just wrap, drizzle with oil and bake as usual in your oven... the leaves go lovely and crispy and give the food a lovely earthy flavour.

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