Roll on summer!
The weather in Leeds has been so unsettled recently. First rain, then sun, then wind….While this makes it surprisingly difficult to determine your wardrobe choices, it does have one amazing upside…Mushrooms! The St George’s season has finally started and I’ve picked my first basket of these delicious mushrooms. And all the rain has energised the plants and got them to put in an extra burst of exuberant lush green growth.
So I decided that the thing to make for this week’s blog post & Basket Case video is something that takes advantage of all this loveliness to make something extra special – Dolmeh! Dolmeh (or dolmades for those of the Hellenic persuasion) is one of my favourite Middle Eastern foods. They are vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, with the optional extras of sultanas, currants, pine nuts, feta cheese, or split peas. In my wild version, I use the giant leaves of Garlic Mustard and Nettles and stuff them with a mixture of wild herbs, rice, pine nuts & currants.
The thing I love about making dolmeh as a forager is that they are infinitely adaptable. For the outers, you can use any edible leaf that is large enough. Garlic mustard is my top choice, although I have heard of people making them out of Mallow leaves, Greater Plantain (plantago major – no relation to the banana!), Lime/Linden leaves and of course, wild Grape leaves. And inside, you can put any edible plant or flower that you find. In these I’ve used a combination of Nettles, Garlic Mustard, Sorrel, Ground Elder and Darwin’s Barberry blossom, but pretty much anything will do! The trick is to just keep the ratios roughly the same. Too much greenery will overwhelm the rice, and too much rice can make them a bit bland. But otherwise…have at it! Hope you enjoy the video!
Foraged Dolmeh Recipe
Lots of very large Garlic Mustard Leaves for stuffing.
70g Wild Garlic Leaves
10g Nettle Leaves
10g Sorrel Leaves
20g Darwin’s Barberry Flowers
10g Ground Elder Leaves
10g Garlic Mustard Tops
4 tbsp chopped Mint (I used Moroccan Mint which is really strongly flavoured. You could also use wild water mint but you’ll need slightly more)
3 tbsp toasted Pine Nuts
3 tbsp Currants
1 cup washed Rice cooked in 2 Cups of water with 1/2 tsp salt (see video)
1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
3 tsp sugar
If using nettles, the leaves should be stripped from the stems and stacked on top of each other to make a pile. Bring 3 cups of water to the boil and slide in your pile of nettles. Blanch them for a about 15 seconds then lift the pile out with your spatula. You mustn’t cook these too long or they will be a devil to work with. You just want to soften them slightly and to denature the stinging cells so you can work with them without stinging yourself! Boil the water to bring it down to 2 cups.
With the nettle water boiling, add your washed rice. Cook on a medium-high heat until the rice is fluffy but not yet cooked through and most of the water has been absorbed. You should have a core of uncooked in the middle of each grain of rice. If it cooks completely, it will go mushy after the dolmeh are cooked. Drain the rice and leave to cool slightly.
Finely chop all of your herbs and strip the flowers from their stalk. Mix in a large bowl with the currants, pine nuts and rice. Leave the rice to continue to cool with the herbs in to allow the residual heat from the rice to wilt the herbs and to make the mixture easier to handle.
Select a large pot with a tightly fitting lid. Make sure it’s one that you can fit some sort of plate into. Grease it with olive oil and line with a double layer of garlic mustard leaves.
Stuff and roll your Garlic Mustard leaves as shown in the video. Lay them into your pot in a tight circle, making sure to not squish them too much and to not disturb the protective layer of garlic mustard leaves beneath. Once you have laid all your dolmeh in the pan, cover them with another layer of garlic mustard leaves.
Mix the ingredients for the cooking liquid together and stir until the sugar has dissolved before gently pouring over the dolmeh. Place your plate on top, cover it with a lid (or in my case, foil and then a lid) and put your pot on a very low heat to cook for about 40 minutes. Turn the heat up at your own peril!
Leave to cool completely before unmoulding and serving. These keep very well stacked in a tupperware in the fridge for up to a week.