August sunshine in the kitchen!

The vine in the greenhouse is full of grapes which we’ll enjoy when they ripen but in the meantime I can make use of the leaves for Dolmades, a Greek speciality which we love – we can always imagine the Greek sunshine on holiday! They’re a bit fiddly to roll  – don’t overstuff and you’ll be fine!

Dolmades with Tzatziki dip

Makes about 20 Takes about an hour and a quarter

25-30 fresh vine leaves (allows for accidents!)

(You can buy preserved vine leaves from most supermarkets – but fresh is best!)

2 tablespoons olive oil plus 125ml

½ onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

115g short grained rice (risotto or pudding rice)

Small piece of cinnamon stick

50g raisins or sultanas

50g pine nuts

Good tablespoon each chopped mint, chopped dill or parsley

Salt and Pepper

5 spring onions, finely chopped

435ml chicken or veg stock

Juice of half a lemon

  • Bring a pan of water to the boil then add the vine leaves and turn off the heat. Leave in the water for 5 minutes then drain and plunge into cold water. Drain and pat lightly with a clean tea towel. Use a sharp knife to cut off the stems. Put on a plate and cover with cling film until ready to use.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and garlic. Fry gently until softened until translucent. Add the cinnamon stick and the rice and stir to coat. Add in the pine nuts, raisins, herbs, spring onions and seasoning then pour in 125ml of the stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the liquid has been completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to cool enough to handle. Remove the cinnamon stick
  • Lay a vine leaf on a board in front of you with the veins facing up and the tip away from you. Place about a tablespoon of the stuffing in a sausage shape at the bottom of the leaf.
  • Fold in the bottom right section of the leaf followed by the bottom left side, covering the stuffing. Fold over both sides of the leaf and roll into a sausage shape. Apply some pressure to make a fairly tight roll – but not too much or it may split. Leave to rest on the seam. Try to only use perfect leaves and repeat to make about 20 dolmades.
  • Step 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Warp leaf 5
  • Line the base of a shallow, lidded ovenproof dish (about 20cm in diameter) with the spare vine leaves and lay the dolmades in a single layer. Try and pack them fairly tightly as it helps to hold them together.
  • Mix together the remaining stock with the oil and lemon juice and pour over the dolmades until they are just covered. Weight the leaves down with an inverted plate then bring to a gentle simmer and cover with the lid. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Pack in pan
  • Carefully remove the plate and leave to cool a little. Remove the dolmades from the liquid and drain. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Serve with some tzatziki – simply grate half a peeled and seeded cucumber and add to 150ml greek yoghurt along with a squeeze of lemon juice and a handful of chopped mint.