A taste of Turkish cuisine
Happy Monday friends! I’ve got a couple more days left to enjoy the sights and scenes of Melbourne, and I promise I’ll share it all with you very very soon! Filling in for me is Aylin, whose blog, GlowKitchen, I came across a couple of months ago. Aylin has some fantastic recipes on her site – and exceptionally good-for-you ones at that! This lovely lady currently lives in Turkey, and instead of me telling you more, I’m going to just pass it over to her. Take it away, Aylin!
Hello Eat, Spin, Run, Repeat readers! My name is Aylin and I hail from GlowKitchen. I am more than thrilled that Angela reached out to me to fill in for her today. I am a huge fan of her blog. If you haven’t stumbled upon my site already, let me introduce myself.
I am currently based in Istanbul, Turkey and work as a freelance writer. I am also a certified clinical nutritionist and over the past four years have worked in one form or another as a private chef, and as an assistant to a detox chef and instructor and her catering company. When I first started my blog (and by “start”, I mean “update once in a blue moon” for nearly a year), I was in New York City, working in the health scene and experimenting with the raw food/detox/vegan lifestyle – one I no longer lead so strictly for practical and personal reasons.
Being half-Turkish, I made the decision to move to Istanbul as a way to spend more than just a dispersed here-and-there month or two, which I had done my entire life, in the place that is a huge part of my upbringing. I fully embraced the transition by documenting my daily kitchen creations, using my blog as an outlet. And while I’m relatively relaxed when it comes to diet, I love the ritual of a daily green juice and try to keep my eats as plant-based and pure as possible.
The street food in Istanbul is tempting, and the national drink comprising a mixture of diluted yogurt and salt (“Ayran”) is indeed a slippery slope in terms of maintaining overall health. Cooking for myself has thus been the key to staying on track.
And while my diet has definitely evolved and adapted to the fact that my soul insists on some meat and butta every so often, I keep my eats relatively clean, using as few ingredients as possible and keeping preparation quick and easy. The taste, of course, remains uncompromised. Ultimately, I attempt to glorify whatever vegetable I use for the day – no need to drown it in other flavors.
Aside from its meat and dairy-heavy dishes, Turkish cuisine is actually quite healthy – there are lots of vegetables and there is a focus on high-quality olive oil. Also, no meal is complete without a salad. So, in the name of my unique context and the beautiful and wholesome cuisine it has to offer, I want to share with you a Turkish-inspired recipe!
This occasion calls for some dolma. I’ve made dolma on my blog before by stuffing bell peppers with jasmine rice, but this time, I’m going to share with you stuffed grape leaves. It only looks intimidating, I swear! In fact, I’ve always been scared to try these on my own, until I realized how painless and gratifying the result is.
Dolma refers to anything that is stuffed, such as peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and grape leaves. The stuffing usually involves long grain white rice, but you can use short-grain white, jasmine, or brown rice. Often, ground lamb is used, but this recipe omits it for all you vegetarian readers out there.
Be sure to prep this dish about one and half hours before meal time, as it will have to cook for about 1 hour. This is why I like to prepare dolma dishes for guests, because when they arrive, the house smells so warm and delicious as the dolma simmers away, and while the dish finish up, the guests can relax with some wine and appetizers. The dolma is then served fresh and hot from the stove with a presentation that is sure to impress. This recipe is such a crowd pleaser!
So let’s get right to it.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Cook Time: 1 hour
Keywords: boil steam appetizer mezze vegan vegetarian grape leaves rice Turkish
Ingredients (Servings vary)
For the Stuffing
- 1.5 cups long grain rice
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
For the Preparation
- Grape leaves (pre-packaged/soaked)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Tomato Sauce or Greek Yogurt for dipping
- Red pepper flakes for garnish
Chop the onion and mix all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
If you are using raw grape leaves, bring water to a boil with a dash of salt and place the grape leaves in the boiling water. After about 15 minutes, carefully remove them and place them in a cold-water bath, allowing them to soak until you need them.
If you are using prepped, canned/jarred grape leaves, you’re all ready to go.
Take about a teaspoon of the mix and put it on the middle of the grape leaf. Spread the mix evenly along the bottom, stem-end of the open-faced leaf, leaving about 1/4-inch space from each end of the leaf. This will make folding the leaf easier. Note: remove any hard stem that may remain on the leaf.
Fold over the mixture from the stem-end and tuck in the empty sides toward the center. Keep folding until you have a complete roll of a grape leaf. Repeat the same process until the rice mixture is all used up. This is my favorite part of the recipe – it is meditative much in the same way knitting is – mindless but busy.
Five to ten minutes later, and you have this mountain:
Layer the rolled grape leaves in a pot, making sure to lay them close to each other.
Pour 2 cups of water into the pot and cover. Bring the water up to a boil and then reduce to simmer for approximately 1 hour, or until the rice has cooked and the leaves are softened. Check every 20-30 minutes – whenever you see the water has been absorbed, add about 1 cup more at a time. While they cook, enjoy the amazing aroma filling the kitchen!
When the dolma is ready, remove them one by one, as they are delicate when hot. Eat them warm or cold. I prefer mine cold – I find that the flavors are heightened that way. Regardless, always enjoy aside some Greek (ahem, Turkish) yogurt for dippin’ or tomato puree that has been heated up and spiced with garlic, salt, and pepper.
As we say in Turkey, Afiyet Olsun (Bon Appetit)!
For more healthy recipes, most of which require far less time, visit me at Glow Kitchen! Hope to see you there
Thanks so much Aylin! In all of my years living in Bahrain, I don’t think I once tried stuffed grape leaves, but you make them look delicious! Based on my recent obsession with stuffed produce, any sort of dolma sounds good to me! So tell me, friends:
Have you ever made stuffed grape leaves? What kind of stuffing do you like?
Have you experimented much with Turkish cuisine? What meals are your favourites?