Persian dolma (or dolmeh/dolmades) comes in all varieties of stuffing and vessels. These stuffed grape leaves with raisins are meatless and offer a wonderful sweet and sour combination. Sponsored by Sun-Maid Raisins. Find more of my pomegranate recipes.
I have a large extended family here in San Diego and having people over for dinner is nothing new. I learned early on in my marriage to be prepared for anything. Over the years, our countless family dinners would range from having just a couple extra people to a party of 70. And I would could everything from scratch from appetizers thru to dessert. It might sound horrendous for some, but I rise up for the challenge.
Learning Persian recipes is another challenge I never shied away from. Having a Persian mother-in-law AND mother guaranteed I’d learn something! I always loved Persian food, full of wonderful flavors that excited all of your senses. And dolmeh is one of those special recipes.
What is dolma?
Stuffing vegetables is a common theme you find in various cuisines from all over the world. In Turkish, dolma means “stuffed” and is typically referred to stuffed grape leaves. Greeks call the same dish dolmades and Persians use dolmeh. They all refer to the same dish.
The most common dolma people think of is grape leaves stuffed with a rice filling and rolled up. But you can also stuff tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and cabbage leaves – they would all be considered dolma.
Filling varieties for dolma
The type of filling you use for your dolma/dolmeh/dolmades depends on the region of the cook in question, personal taste and ingredients you have available to you. I have shared dolmeh recipe before that included rice and ground beef. In my olive oil cookbook, I used a vegetarian filling of rice and fresh herbs.
This version includes a stuffing my grandmother used to make and includes raisins. My mother described it to have a sweet and sour combination, so I knew I had to make it, where the raisins provided the sweet and the pomegranate syrup (I used concentrate) and lemon juice offered a bit of tang.
Rice to use for dolma
Typically, basmati rice is the first choice of rice I use when making dolmada. I have also used brown basmati rice. For this raisin dolmeh, I chose to use a short grain rice, specifically arborio rice.
Arborio rice is primarily used for risotto. I also like to use it for paella. It also makes a wonderful creamy filling for this raisin dolmeh. Whichever rice you do use, you will cook it before stuffing it in the grape leaves.
Fresh grape leaves or canned?
Although I have a grape vine in my backyard, I bought canned leaves that were brined. I am lazy and I am always looking at making the cooking process go faster for me. You can totally use fresh grape leaves, too. All the prep required for brined grape leaves is to rinse them with water before use.
If you are using fresh grape leaves, choose large leaves that are about the size of your hand. Remove the stem and rinse clean. Fresh grape leaves require you to blanch them first in boiling water. Once blanched and removed from water, they are ready to use for stuffing.
How to serve dolma
Dolma is quite delicious on its own and a dipping is definitely not required. But I prefer to serve dolmeh with mast-o khiar, Persian yogurt with cucumbers. But you can serve it alone, with lemon wedges and even plain yogurt, if you like. Quite an exotic spread, wouldn’t you say?
You can serve your dolmeh warm or cold. I prefer my dolmeh at around room temperature, just slightly warm. A little garnish of fresh herbs and dried rose petals is totally optional, but certainly adds extra flavor.
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 TBS chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 cup arborio rice, uncooked
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 TBS pomegranate concentrate
- 3 TBS lemon juice
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup raisins
- Grape leaves, approximately 20-22
- Heat medium-sized pan over high heat and add 1 TBS olive oil.
- When oil is hot, add chopped onions.
- Sauté onions until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in parsley and mint.
- Cook until herbs are wilted, another 3 minutes.
- Stir in rice with the onions and herbs.
- Stir in vegetable broth.
- Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat, cover pan and cook on low until rice is soft and broth is absorbed. Add more water, if needed.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in pomegranate concentrate, 1 TBS lemon juice and raisins.
- If using brined grape leaves, rinse with water before use. If using fresh grape leaves, blanch cleaned leaves in hot water until soft.
- In a small pot, coat bottom with 2 TBS olive oil. Reserve pot.
- On a flat work surface, remove and pat dry grape leaves.
- Working with one grape leaf at a time, spread a grape leaf flat on your work surface, with the vein side up. Add 1 TBS of rice filling to the center of your grape leaf.
- Depending on the size of your grape leaves, the amount of filling can vary. 1 TBS of filling is a good amount for a leaf the size of the palm of an average hand.
- Starting with the stem end, pull the lower part of the grape leaf over the filling, tucking the tip under the filling.
- Keeping the dolmeh tight, but not pulling so hard that you rip the grape leaf, pull the left flap of the leaf over to the center. Repeat with the right flap of the leaf.
- Tightly roll the dolmeh into the top of the grape leaf, then place dolmeh into the oiled pot.
- Continue stuffing and rolling grape leaves until all the stuffing is used.
- Place and layer the dolmeh snuggly in the pot.
- Whisk together 1/3 cup water and 2 TBS lemon juice.
- Pour lemon water evenly over the dolmeh.
- Place a heavy plate on top of the dolmeh to keep them from expanding and opening up while cooking.
- Cover the pot and steam over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Dolmeh can be served immediately warm or at room temperature.
- You can also keep the dolmeh refrigerated in an air-tight container for 3 days, then reheat when ready to serve.
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Serving Size:1 dolmeh
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 68 Total Fat: 2.3g Saturated Fat: 0.4g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 152mg Carbohydrates: 11.5g Fiber: 0.6g Sugar: 5.6g Protein: 1g