A few months ago my then 5 month old daughter was dependent on perpetual motion to help her sleep and so I found myself walking a lot. I would walk down Green Lanes in London (Turkish and Cypriot part) and I always discovered something new. One day I came across a Turkish supermarket off the beaten-track. The narrow doorway is at the end of an alleyway and opens up like Narnia. It’s times like that that I wish I had a kitchen 5 times the size of my small London kitchen so that I could store sacks of bulgur wheat, tubs of chilli and pickles. I love the reassuring presence of such staples in my kitchen. As I walked down the aisles I was dwarfed by the shelves stacked ceiling high with pulses, spices, teas and cans of everything.
I came across dried aubergines and paprika peppers for dolma (stuffed vegetables). That immediately made perfect sense to me, particularly as many fresh out of season vegetables can be limp in flavour. I have stuffed more vegetables than I care to remember but I have never used these particular ones. I walked up to the only person at the till who was battling with a remote control and an unresponsive flat screen TV and showed her my intended purchase. I misinterpreted her facial expression and immediately asked if they were no good. “No”, she said, she wondered if I knew what to do with them. Her English was as good as my Turkish but we worked it out, I told her my way and she told me hers. As I was leaving she called out, “Don’t forget LEMON”. So here it is, Turkish Dolma inspired during my morning walk at Green Lanes with my daughter.
2 packs of dried vegetables for dolma (25 pieces approximately in each)
1kg of lamb mince
150g of long grain rice
4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of dried mint
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
3 teaspoons of baharat
500ml of stock
One large white onion, diced
1 teaspoon of paprika
Juice from 1.5 lemons
Greek yogurt and a teaspoon of sumac to serve
Preheat the oven to 200◦C / 400F / Gas 6
- Place the dried vegetables in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon lift the vegetables out of the pan and keep the stock.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions. When translucent add the mince and brown.
- Add the tomato paste and stir in thoroughly .
- Stir in the rice and turn the heat off.
- Add the lemon juice, mint, parsley, a good pinch of salt, baharat and paprika. Stir.
- When the mixture has cooled a little, spoon it into the vegetables and fill each one. Place the stuffed vegetables facing up into a large baking dish. Try and make sure that they are tightly packed so they don’t topple over.
- Pour 500ml of the reserved vegetable stock into the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
- Place into the oven for an hour or until the rice has cooked.
- Serve warm with plenty of Greek yogurt sprinkled with sumac.