Source: Adapted from the Together Cookbook with Meghan Markle
I was first introduced to Iraqui Dolma when I was about 20 years old. What a 20 year old, Italian-American girl would know or remember from her first Dolma meal is hard to say…but this girl remembered it all, down to her first bite. I had the privilege of working with a young woman who was originally from Iraq. She and her family fled to Germany in the 1980’s, and 10 years later, they came to America. She was a hairdresser, and we worked together in the same salon. Every Christmas, her mother made us a huge platter of Dolma. It was so damn good, that decades later, I can still remember the amazing taste of this dish. The taste was so distinctive, and it’s something I’ve dreamed of reproducing for my family, but never knew how…that is until now. I had seen the press on Meghan Markle’s charity cookbook, “Together”, which highlighted the victims of the terrible Grenfell Tower fire, (in the U.K.) in which many lives and homes were lost.
Proceeds to victims
Many of the dwellers from this building seemed to have Middle-Eastern roots. The cookbook is from these women who lost their homes and more, and all proceeds go to the victims. The cookbook is quite lovely and very special in my opinion, as it features all the great dishes from their regions in Africa and the Middle-East. Dolma was the first recipe I searched for. It so happens, that it’s also Iraqui Dolma, the same area where my old colleague came from. The spices are the key to this dish, and it’s all documented in this delicious recipe. The recipe is time intensive, and it took me over 2 hours with out cooking time to assemble this dish, however, the labor was well worth the time, because the results are very authentic.
For my recipe, I did what I always do with recipes, and I worked with what I had. Which means, no grape leaves this time, but I had a few heads of cabbage and zucchini. In my German class, I have a class mate from Syria. We talked quite extensively about this recipe. He explained to me that his mom’s way, which is the Damascus way, makes the dish with special small sized zucchini, eggplant and grape leaves. Again, with the many ways food brings people together, I could almost feel the love he exuded as he talked about his mother’s method of shelling out the zucchini and eggplants, which is apparently very difficult to do with out ruining the vegetable. I promise to use the right material next version with grape leaves, zucchini, onions, and maybe the small mini-eggplant if I can find them.
- 4 medium onions peeled
- 280 grams basamati rice rinsed and soaked for 30 min.
- 280 grams lamb minced
- 3 medium tomatoes chopped fine
- 2 medium garlic cloves fine chopped
- 3 TBS tamarind paste
- 3 TBS pomegranate molasses
- 6 TBS tomato puree
- 8 TBS olive oil
- 2 tsp baharat Lebanese seven-spice mix
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 medium green peppers long variety, cored and de-seeded
- 20 medium grape leaves or cabbage
- 600 ml water
- begin with rinsing and soaking your rice in water. let it soak for 30 min., then drain and put aside
- take the leaves of cabbage and pour boiling water over them, let them stand for about 20 min.
- finish with cold water soak
- if using onions, make an incision in the onions from top to bottom on one side, cutting halfway through, stopping at the core. Bring a pan of water to boil, add the onions and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. When cool, separate each onion to make two or three shells, and a small core. You should get 8 shells in total. Chop the onion cores and set aside.
- place the rice in a mixing bowl. Add the lamb, chopped onions, tomatoes, and garlic, 1 1/2 tbs. of the tamarind paste (so half), 1 1/2 tsp. of the pomegranate molasses (again, half), 3 TBS of the tomato puree (half), 4 TBS olive oil (half), and spices
- mix the mixture delicately together with your hands until well blended.
- get your other vegetables ready
- I poured a little bit of boiling water over the cut zucchini and peppers, thus making it very easy to hollow out with a small spoon.
- Begin to fill the rice in the vegetable or leaves. Don’t over fill, as the mixture expands
- roll by bringing the bottom over the heap, then tucking in the sides. Lay tightly in a deep stock pot or quart pot.
- Mix in the remaining tamarind paste, pomegranate molasses, tomato puree, olive oil and salt with the 600 ml of water, then pour over the dolma which is nicely and snugly lined in the pot. Invert a large plate on the top to hold everything in place during the cooking process, and cover with lid. Bring to a boil on the stove, then simmer on low hear for about 45-60 min., or until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed.
- When finished with the cooling process, remove the lid, plate and invert a large serving dish, thus flipping the pot over, to have the finished product sit in the dish with out spooning it all out, individually.
- finished product