mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

In From the Garden, Low Fat, on the side, Rice, Vegetarian on June 28, 2009 at 1:02 pm

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.

the vine

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.

  1. Wow this is new to me, never knew we could use grape leaves in cooking!! thanks for sharing!

    I haven’t found too many recipes with vine leaves though – dolma and its variations seem to be the most popular way to eat them!

  2. Belated happy birthday! It’s really nice when people remember to wish you. Congrats to the son too!

    And here come more wishes!
    Thanks, Sra!

  3. Happy birthday, Mandira! Sounded like a lovely & special day. Congrats on the graduation too. So he’ll be leaving the nest soon, huh? Best wishes!

    Hmmm…a case of mistaken identity, methinks! 🙂 But, thanks, anyway!

  4. Belated Birthday wishes, Dear Anita!
    Congrats to ur son on his academic accomplishment and best of luck for the future!

    Thanks, Manasi! He is looking forward to being on his own!

  5. You posted! *thud*

    You know what? One of these days you are going to fall hard…and land on your head… Be careful!

    • To land on my head, my centre of gravity needs to change very quickly. I would like that very much.

      • I so want to say something witty, but as usual my wit eludes me when I need it most…it will come to me in a day or two… 😀 what I could have said!

  6. I will never ever take the trouble to make these. However, I just loved the pictures and the stories you weave.


    Never say never, Jo! 😉

  7. The dolmas look great! I’ve only heard of the grape leaf stuffed dish, didn’t know the name too. Very interesting!

    Glad you had a wonderful day! I had no idea you were anywhere near 44. Your picture could have easily passed for a 30 yr old.

    Past 25, we all like to behave ‘young at heart!’ That picture is only 4 years old… Thanks for saying that!

  8. Belated birth day wishes!!!! The dolmas looks GR8! Very new to me too…

    Thanks, Khaugiri!

  9. Never even heard of making use of grape leaves like this. Lvoely recipe Anita and a belated b’day wish too! May all your dreams come true in the days ahead! Congrats for your boy graduating from school and the college admission. As its South India is it in Chennai ? If so count me in for any help needed for him.

    How I wish it was Chennai!
    I don’t think I am going to get very many grapes…so this was the next best thing! maybe even better, since I can always buy fresh grapes but who sells vine leaves!

  10. Awesome that you are back! The Bengali version is cooked by stuffing parwals. Have never tried the grape leaves though, but surely would access some. Most importantly very happy belated birthday! As am edging toward 40 I know exactly what you mean, it probably is the most fun part of life! Will get to know soon 🙂 . Wish you no writer’s block this year!

    So, Bengalis have a savoury stuffed parwal? Here we stuff parwals cooked in syrup with khoya…ummmm!
    Oh yes, it just keeps getting better and better as you get older! (As long as the wet weather doesn’t make your your limbs hurt! Then there is aspirin I guess…)

    • Yes the vegetarian variety is either stuffed as shared by you with rice or cottage cheese as per taste. The non-veg variety used is hot and sweet mince meat stuffing. There is a grape vine in a friend’s house but the grapes are terribly sour but now I know how to put the leaves to good use. Who said grapes are always sour!

      • Cottage cheese? Hmmm.
        Exactly! One of my wines will bear red grapes while the other looks like the regular green ones. But both are full of seed! But who cares when I can buy good grapes in the market; these vines are for the leaves!

  11. i love dolmas but have a hard time finding the grape leaves here. these look great anita and nice to see you blogging again!

    Wonder if you could grow your own there? Ah, but you can always use the ones in them jars!

  12. Rather belated, but they’re wishes just the same. A very happy birthday. This one sure didn’t whiz by, you had lots of firsts and fun.
    Double four, hmmmm. That’s another 3 months for me!

    Is that engg. college in “God’s Own Country”, btw?

    Ahh…good to know you are not far behind!
    Not Kerala..but not too far from Goa!

  13. wow! thats two milestones in one post!! i can sense ur excitement at the bird leaving the nest..and a very belated happy birthday. maybe some day when i come to delhi , i will meet you.:)

    • So, when are you planning to visit?
      Thanks for the Birthday wishes!

      • wish i could.. in a heartbeat now.. though every one complains abt the changes there, i would love to see them in person.. its been 12 yrs since i left delhi.

  14. happy Birthday Anita.
    so you are 44 now, wow that is old.

  15. Good to have you back!And belated wishes for both you and your son, for your bday and his graduation.Wish him luck from me.

  16. Congratulations and best wishes to your son!

    Love the dolmas, i once made them here with canned leaves and used pine nuts in the stuffing, yummy! Back in the old days (yeah!), we used to make pakodas out of grape leaves :). Love the slightly sour taste of these leaves! Stuffed aloo-paranthas and mojitos sure sound like a great b’day treat :).

  17. belated birthday wishes to u,..congratulations to ur son too,..Dolmas is new for me,..looks soo yum, u bearin delhi heat…its burnin out here…

    • It’s raining! 🙂
      Despite all the hullabaloo created by the media of an impending drought, this was the first time, as far as I can remember, the monsoon actually hitting Delhi on the official date of Jun 29!

  18. Those remind me of those absolutely delicious aluwadis I used to have in Mumbai! These look really appetising too!

    P.S – about the garam masala for the chawli amti – you can use any garam masala (including goda masala). Its only a small quantity, so no problem

    • It is interesting how many cuisines include stuffing leaves – even cabbage leaves are stuffed!
      Your chawli recipes are going to be tested soon!

  19. Belated Birthday Wishes Anita. I was browsing through some old Outlook magazines and saw the article about food blogs.

    Had these while in Egypt and have loved them ever since. Never made them though.

    Congrats to the son.

    • I had them at a Greek restaurant and they were good. But these were better!
      Ah, you saw the Outlook article! But TLO will let you know that that was a bad photograph – WB all wrong!
      The son is looking forward to being on his own!

  20. Wanted to mention that the article was wonderful and it was great to see Mad Tea Party in print along with the picture of the talented author.

  21. Belated Happy Birthday! I wish you another wonderful year ahead. Also, congratulations to your son, where in the South is he planning to enroll?

  22. LOVE LOVE LOVE Dolmas! A turkish friend tells me they usually have dolma making parties as it a tedious job to make by yourself 🙂 I guess you dont mind the hard work. If I ever find myself even thinking about making it, I will read your post.

    Have wonderful year ahead!

    • Those that you see inthe pan, that is how many I made! Still it took about an hour since I had to prepare the leaves as well!
      Thanks for your wishes, Mints!

  23. It’s too cold to write now, and last week it was too hot. I’ve thought of some great post-openers and can’t recall a single one! 😀

    Tedious, grape-leaf dolmas are…that’s why I’ve only made them once and forever afterward just think about them and how lovely they are to eat! Make sure and have a platter of these waiting when I eventually come and visit!

    As for me, I’m thinking “grape-leaf casserole”…

    • Cold? Cold! It is stifling here!

      I can’t believe you think dolmas are tedious! You, who make whey powder for goodness sake! Not to mention that mole…
      Grape-leaf casserole?? Layer leaves with seasoned rice…???

  24. Ah the son is off on his adventures. Congratulations to y’all.

    Happy Budday to you Anita, Happy Budday to you! Baar baar yeh din ayee. Jeeoyo hazaaro saal!

    If I could make my four decade old body shimmy I would do the Shammi Kapoor thing along with the song.

    Dolma making party… that sounds like a great idea. We need plenty of ouzo with that.

    Article? Picture? Tell us more.

  25. Everytime I walk through the garden and down my plum-dotted path, the wild grapes look at me and beg to be eaten. I have made excuses. “I’m busy”, “I don’t know of a decent vegetarian recipe” blah blah. This is a reminder, and I guess that is what’s for lunch then. 🙂 Thank you!

    I always love your site. And I did miss you during writer’s block. However you have enough interesting posts to keep me entertained.

    Happy Belated Birthday, and Merry UnBirthday!!

  26. why I come always late to this mad tea party? 😉

    congrats to ur son and read in one of the comments that he will be doing his engg in my home state 🙂 that’s really cool 🙂

    And belated b’day wishes to u Anita.

    We get these pickled grape leaves. just wondering if I can use them!

    •’s never too late!
      Thanks for the wishes, Sia!
      If the leaves are whole, just rinse them out some and try…

  27. Happy Birthday, youngster! 🙂 Your dolmas look great; I like the combination of flavors you’ve chosen. Thanks for the mention with the grape leaves. Which reminds me, I should really pick and freeze some more…

  28. There had better be life after 40! I didn’t come all this way for nothing… 🙂

    • 😀 Of course there’s life… (even much much after 40, I hope!)… Just that these 30-somethings feel we are over the hill!

  29. Hey,

    Thank god he delivered the roses to you! So what if he messed my name up!

    Is your son going to ***? Our dear friend’s son has just gone into second year there, and his cousin is joining first year Mechanical 🙂 now.

    I haven’t tasted grape leaves I think… 🙂

    • Thank God you added S’ name… else I would have had to ask for who the mystery Anuradha was!
      He is! (I am starring out the name, Raaga – for what it is worth….)

  30. these made a big impression on me when I had read this post of yours. I am now in the middle east and today after a year here I finally laid my hands on not one but 3 homemade varieties of dolmas. (the delay in trying dolmas was because TH had developed an aversion to their tangy taste). Well, what can I say. I love ’em. All the 3 varieties that I tried today were vegetarian. I particularly loved one version: it was tangy and just a teeny weeny bit sweet. Lovely! Of course they were served with pan-fried thick potato slices which I love. Now I regret having missed an opportunity to pick up fresh grape leaves just a week ago. Brined ones will do I suppose?

    Hi, J! Brined ones are used all the time! Go ahead and try them, and share your 3 versions with us!

  31. […] Here’s the recipe. Try to find grapes that have seeds, or grow a vine of your own. It is easy enough to grow, gives shade in the this awfully hot summer, and will also give you leaves to make dolmas! […]

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