Iranian Steamed Grape Leaves with Rice and Meat Stuffing (Dolmeh)
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1/2 cup imported Iranian rice or other uncooked long grain white rice, soaked and drained (see Note below)
6 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 lb. lean ground lamb or beef
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, preferably flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely cut fresh dill, or 2 Tablespoons dried dill weed
2 tsp. finely cut fresh mint, or 1 tsp. dried mint
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. oregano, crumbled
1 tsp. salt
40 preserved grape leaves
2 tbsp. water
NOTE: If you are using Iranian rice, start at least 6 hours ahead. Spread it on a clean surface and pick out and discard any dark or discoloured grains. Then wash it in a fine sieve or colander set under warm running water until the draining water runs clear. Finally place the rice in a large bowl or pot, add 1/4 cup of salt and enough cold water to cover it by about 1 inch and soak overnight, or for at least 6 hours. If you are using other long grain rice, wash it in the same way, but soak it in the salt water for about 2 hours then drain.
Over high heat, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour in the rice in a slow, thin stream so the water does not stop boiling. Stir once or twice, boil briskly for 5 minutes, then drain in a sieve and set aside.
In a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the onions and, stirring frequently, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are soft and golden brown. Stir in the ground meat and, mashing it with a fork to break up any lumps, cook until all traces of pink disappear. Tip the pan and drain off the excess fat. Then reduce the heat to low, add the rice, scallions, parsley, dill, mint, lemon juice, turmeric, oregano and salt and, stirring constantly, cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Set aside, off the heat.
Meanwhile, in a large pot bring 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the grape leaves and immediately turn off the heat. Let the leaves soak for 1 minute, then pour off the hot water and plunge the leaves into a bowl or pan of cold water to cool them quickly. Gently separate the leaves and spread them on paper towels to drain.
Layer the bottom of a heavy 2 to 3 quart casserole with 10 leaves. Stuff remaining 30 grapes leaves. Spread the grape leaf, dull side up, flat on a plate and place a tablespoon of the stuffing on the center of the leaf. Turn up the stem end of the leaf and then, one at a time, fold over each of the sides to enclose the stuffing completely. Starting again at the stem end, roll the grape leaf gently but firmly into a compact cylinder. The surfaces of the leaf will cling together sufficiently to hold the grape leaf in shape. Arrange the stuffed leaves, side by side and with the seam sides down, in layers in the casserole. Sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the 2 tablespoons of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer tightly covered for 50 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature.
To serve, arrange the stuffed grape leaves attractively on a platter or individual plates and garnish with lemon wedges.
To make 30 dolmehs
Middle Eastern Cooking
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