Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Armenian Dolmades

This is one of those recipes that I forgot to post. I had some friends over a few weeks ago for dinner and made Middle Eastern foods. One of the dishes that was featured was stuffed grape leaves in the Armenian style that I learned years ago from my part Armenian Mother-in-law. I never really got the exact recipe because that wasn't the way she cooked, but I watched and helped many times until I figured out how to make it myself. There are a couple of differences in this kind of stuffed grape leaves.  First of all, it has lamb and rice and it is cooked in a tomato sauce. The predominant seasoning is Allspice and the Dolmades are made pretty fat. Forget about making those beautiful little cigarillo shapes that are so well done by the Turkish. This is hearty food and comes from Gaziantap. Also, the grape leaves sold in the store never put enough in one jar, so you will have to buy two. You will only use part of the second jar so be sure to reserve the liquid so you can put the leftover grapes leaves back in. And, a good use for them is to wrap fish and cook it or to stuff it with rice and serve with a lemon sauce. 

In any case, this dish can certainly be doubled, which is why it is so good for a party, but then I usually cook it in a baking dish in the oven so that the dolmades don't get unwrapped when you stir.  It is very likely that some of the bottom Dolmades will stick so don't be alarmed if they do or if they even break apart in the sauce. This is a very rustic dish! This is a favorite food of my son Stephen and it became a good teaching experience as he helped me get them ready to cook. It is actually a simple recipe and the only secret is using Uncle Ben's Converted Rice. I've tried regular rice and the cooking time required and the texture of the rice just wasn't as good. The other tip  It is one of those dishes that can be cooked ahead and reheated which makes it wonderful for a party.

Armenian Dolmades

1 lb ground lamb
1 1/2 cups Uncle Ben's Converted Rice
1 small onion, grated
2 teaspoons ground Allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 jars of grape leaves, leaves removed, separated and the extra bit of stem trimmed off each leaf
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large can whole tomatoes
1 14 1/2 can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
Additional 2 teaspoons Allspice
1 - 2 teaspoons additional salt
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar

In a large bowl, mix together the ground lamb, rice, onion, Allspice, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Then on a large cutting board, lay out one grape leaf at a time and put in about 2 Tablespoons of the lamb mixture in the middle. Pull in the sides of the grape leaves and put over the lamb and then roll tightly from the bottom to make a fat half cigar shape. Put aside and continue until all of the lamb mixture is used up.

In a large pot, heat olive oil and put in garlic and stir until you can smell the garlic fragrance.  Put in canned tomatoes and chop up with the spatula. Then add the tomato sauce and chicken broth, Allspice, sugar and a small amount of salt. Taste and adjust salt and sugar. Gently place all the grape leaves in the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. Cut one open and taste the rice (don't worry the meat will already be cooked). If the rice is still crunchy, stir the pot very gently with a spatula around the sides of the Dolmades and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Serve in a big wide bowl and with additional steamed, buttered rice if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Lamb and tomatoes belong to the Fire Element so this is considered a Fiery dish.  The rice, onion and Allspice contribute the Metal Element. The grape leaves and the olive oil represent the Wood Element so that element is covered too. The only elements not present are the Water Element and the Earth Element so make sure that you serve this with a Watery food - we served an eggplant dip to start and also an Earthy food - we also served a sweet dessert to create a Five Element balance.

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