I know, I know – I have been neglecting the blog. I think i might have writer’s block. The thing with writing is that you must just keep at it; that’s the only way to get past it. You cut yourself some slack, waiting for inspiration to strike, and before you know it you have arrived at Writer’s Block! Sticky place, that.
Yet it’s not as if it has been an uneventful month. The Big News is that the son has graduated from highschool. Pappu pass ho gaya!! 😀 Not just that, he has also managed a place at a good college down South to study the subject he wishes to. Yes, if all goes as per plan, he is slated to become an engineer in four years.
This is also a month of birthdays in the family, and everyone is a year older. The son can vote now. As for me, well… I don’t think 44 is any kind of a milestone… After 40, they seem to whiz by.
Yet, this birthday ended up special in many ways. The day began with the usual phone calls from my Mom and sis. Then my neighbour T walked in to wish me and reminded me about our lunch appointment – yes, T took me out to lunch! It was after a very long time that I actually liked everything I had ordered at a restaurant. Thank you, T, for a wonderful afternoon!
Thank you, Manisha and Kay for your birthday wishes here! And now that I am on FB, there were birthday wishes galore (Musical, Ritu, Pel, and Meeta, and my collegemates Keshav, and Ami!). My friend Prati sent an SMS but I made sure she called! This year I also received my first bunch of birthday roses – thank you, Raaga (and Sachin) – what a wonderful surprise that was!
Tea was at my Mom’s where my sister had baked me a cake! There were other goodies too which I only nibbled at… Back home I found TH had planned aloo paranthas! He fixed me a dirty Mojito while I waited to make some room for the paranthas. And before I hit the sack my dear friend Manisha called to make sure I was having a good time!
All in all, a darn good way to ring in the double four!
Another first this month, in the kitchen, were dolmas. Remember the grapevine picture from the previous post? Seeing that, two Flickr friends screamed, “Dolmas!” But ask them for a recipe and what I get are rave recollections of the ones they have had and a vague list of ingredients. You should have heard the exclamation points implied!
Many recipes for dolma include some meat along with rice as the basic ingredients. Robert mentioned raisins and nuts, and Pel thought that sounded so much better than his recipe. I searched and was happy to find this version of meatless dolmas that seemed a lot like the one Robert was talking about! It is always a good if I do not need to start with two variations to accommodate the vegetarians in the family when attempting a new dish.
You can use grape leaves preserved in brine or grow a vine like me! You can even freeze leaves for later use. Pick leaves that are large yet tender. You will need a few extra to line the cooking pot. Here Lulu shows you how you can prepare your own leaves!
My leaves were probably not very large, and I think I could have stuffed them some more. But for my first attempt these medium sized dolmas were great! The rice is subtly flavoured with oregano, mint, and cinnamon, which made it taste so good, almost a little exotic! Grape leaves have their own unique taste which is set off perfectly with a hint of lime and olive oil. If you have never tried making them, do it now!
Dolmas: Stuffed Grape Leaves
20+ prepared grape leaves
juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 C boiling water
for the stuffing:
1/2 C long grain rice such as basmati, rinsed and drained
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 t chopped raisins (or sultanas)
2 T chopped pine nuts (I used cashews)
1 t fresh oregano (or a good pinch of the dried kind)
1 t fresh mint, minced (or a good pinch of the dried kind)
generous sprinkle of cinnamon, and pepper
Heat oil on medium heat in a pan. Saute onions for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the drained rice and continue to stir another couple of minutes. Now add chopped raisins, nuts, oregano, and mint. Continue to cook this for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Allow the mixture to cool a bit before adding cinnamon and freshly ground pepper. Season with salt.
To stuff the leaves, lay a prepared vine leaf smooth side down, stem end near you. Place a generous teaspoonful of the stuffing in the center shaping it into a rectangle. Fold stem end over, then fold over the sides. Roll up, not too tight, to make a dolma about 5cm long and 1.5cm thick (mine were smaller). Line a flat bottom heavy pan with a single layer of vine leaves. Place the dolmas, seamside down, in the plan in neat rows. Pour over the lime juice and boiled water. Weigh down the dolmas with a plate to help them retain their shape as they cook. Cover and cook on a simmer for 30-40 min. Time will vary with quantity. Keep an eye on the water; top with more if you think it has been absorbed before the cooking time is over. It is okay if there is some remnant water at the end of the cooking time; this will be absorbed as the dolmas cool. Transfer carefully to a serving plate. Serve chilled or at room temperature, with additional lime wedges if desired.