Stuffed Vine Leaves (Sarma)

‘Sarma’ means ‘to wrap’ in Turkish. You may wrap it in vine leaves, white cabbage or chard leaves; make it meaty or vegetarian, all taste heavenly. If you ask your friends from Turkey (also very popular in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines) what their favourite dish would be, we promise you that ‘Sarma’ will be in the first 3.

It takes a lot of patience and skills in the kitchen to cook a decent Sarma dish. The skinnier you made them the higher you scored in the eyes of your potential mothers-in-laws in old times. But no pressure, those days are over and you are totally ok to wrap them weird shapes like I do.

Ingredients

  • 350gr of vines leaves (fresh or in brine)
  • 1.5 cups of long-grain white rice
  • Half cup of olive oil
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 tsp of pine nuts
  • 3 tbs of black currents (I couldnt find black currants, so I used raisins instead)
  • 1 tsp of dried mint
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of allspice
  • Ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 tbs of fresh dill
  • Half lemon’s juice
  • Half lemon sliced
  • 2 cups of hot water

Instructions

  1. If you are lucky enough to find fresh vine leaves, boil enough water to cover leaves. Once the water boils add leaves and cook them about 3 minutes. Depending on how rough your leaves are you may need to boil extra 2 more minutes. They should be softened enough but not to the point they start breaking when you handle. When ready, remove your leaves and drain the water. I live in a country it is difficult to find fresh vine leaves to cook (particularly while under lock down), so I’ve used a package of leaves in brine that I had ordered from a nearby country a while ago (which, to my disappointment, remained too hard after all that cooking). If you too have to use leaves in brine, simply follow the instructions on the cover. You may skip the boiling process or boil longer.
  2. Transfer your black currants to a small bowl and add some warm water and set aside.
  3. Wash your rice in a bowl, drain and set aside.
  4. Chop onions finely and place them with pine nuts in your pan where you preheated the olive oil. Stir the mix for 3-4 minutes before adding the rice, mint, cinnamon, allspice, salt, ground black pepper and 2 cups of hot water. Cook your stuffing for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is soft enough and the water absorbed. Remove your pot off the heat and set it aside to cool.
  5. When the stuffing is cooled enough add chopped dill and a half lemon’s juice. Stir gently.
  6. Set your drained leaves, the stuffing, the cooking pot and a board to work on in front of you on a table where you will spend a considerable time; so make sure you are comfortable enough.
  7. Cover the base of the pot with torn or too small to use leaves. This way your wrapped leaves wont get stuck to the base in the cooking process.
  8. Take a leaf from the pile very carefully without breaking it or the rest of the leaves and place it on the board in front of you. Smooth side of the leaf should be facing the board. Get rid of the stalk without damaging the leaf.
  9. Take a full teaspoon of stuffing and carefully place it on your leaf. Then start folding each sides over the stuffing and roll it to the edge of the leaf. You should wrap it firmly but delicately. You wouldnt like to damage the leaf.
  10. Place your wraps on your pot arranged as circles. Once the first layer is complete, start building the next layer.
  11. When all your leaves are wrapped and arranged in the pot, pour the hot water (should be enough to cover them evenly), close the lid, bring the water to boil, lower the heat and leave them to cook for about 30-45 minutes. I would take one to taste it in order to see if the leaves are tender enough before switching off the heat.
  12. Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. Your Sarma dish is ready. Transfer your sarmas to the serving dish and garnish with lemon slices. They are good to be served room temperature or fridge cold.