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Leaves: a thing to be desired

Leaves are totally hot right now ’round here. And my backyard is full of fruit trees!  Ah, the glory. Meanwhile, a curly, octopus-armed green thing is loving itself around the railing on the back porch:

Full of tendrils

Since there’s no grapes yet, a grapevine can only mean one thing. It’s dolmades season.

Salad fingers reaching through...

Want to know how to make them? It’s easy as weeing on a sleeping dog but a little more time-consuming. I love them to bits. So much so that I completely failed to take photos for the purposes of this post. Moving on.  Prepare your fresh vine leaves by shoving them in boiling water for five minutes — seriously boiling, like bubbling and rattling the lid and everything — and then running under cold water.  Right, while they’re cooling, let’s start for realsies. You’ve got three basic steps: cooking the filling, rolling them up, cooking the dolmades.  The filling is a savoury rice dish, with lashings of pinenuts, herbs, lemon and olive oil.  The best herbs to use are mint, coriander, dill and flat-leafed parsley. (Ideally, a combo of all four.)


My go-to recipe is on, but here’s the basic bones if you feel like winging it:

Sauteé some finely-chopped onion in a generous splurp of olive oil, then add some dry rice — a soft short-grain rice, like arborio (I wonder if sushi rice would work? Bet it would.) and not a fragrant rice like jasmine — and pinenuts. Fry for a little while, till those pinenuts start looking toasty, and then add your flavourings and some water. Bring it to the boil and cook until all the water has been absorbed. The rice should be slightly undercooked.  First step done! I always mean to experiment with different flavourings, but I inevitably come back to the herbs/pinenuts/sultanas mix because it’s completely delicious. It’d be interesting to try, say, chilli and roast capsicum, or beetroot and mint.  Roll that funky jazz in vine leaves so they look like cigars.  Second step done!  Squish them all into a pot lined with vine leaves and pour over your cooking broth: a mix of olive oil, water, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Don’t skimp on the lemon juice! You will regret it to your last day if you don’t really splash it around. Seriously, you’ll wake up at night, troubled and sweaty, and twist the sheets around you, but there will be no escape from your shame if you skimp the citrus.

Simmer on a really low heat for an hour or so, then switch it off and walk away. Just walk away. The longer they sit in those juices, the better. Third step done!  BAM. Dolmades. You’re welcome. Awesome to take to work for a cold lunch.

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