Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 13, 2017
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Dolma from Baghdad (Dolma Baghdadia)

For the stuffing
1 lb. (500 g) ground meat
1-1½ c. (250-375 ml) rice
a small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped or 6 tbsp. (90 ml) dried parsley
a handful of fresh mint, chopped or 3 tbsp. (45 ml) dried mint
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed
a handful of frozen or fresh fava beans (optional)
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) turmeric
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) ground cumin (optional)
5 small lamb ribs (optional)
1 tbsp. (15 ml) mixed spices (like garam masala)
1 tbsp. (15 ml) sumac 2 tbsp. (30 ml) tomato paste (optional, but recommended)
½ c. (125 ml) chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp. (15 ml) pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. (60 ml) cooking or olive oil
juice of half a lemon


For the shell
Vine leaves, spinach leaves, cabbage leaves, small eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers, medium onions, green peppers, and/or tomatoes


Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl.

Core the zucchini, cucumbers and eggplants.

Cut the tops off the peppers to form a lid. Remove the seeds. Do the same for the tomatoes.

Grate or finely chop the cored parts of the eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes, and add to the stuffing.

Loosely stuff the cored vegetables and cover with the reserved lids, making sure there is enough room for the rice to expand.

Peel the onions. Cut off the tops and bottoms. Make a vertical slit along one side of each onion, stopping at the center. Boil in water for two minutes to soften the layers. Separate the layers. Loosely stuff each layer and roll into a cigar shape.

If the vine leaves are fresh, soften them by soaking in boiling water for a few minutes. If they are frozen, thaw them first; if they are canned or jarred, rinse them in cold water before use. Separate and wash the cabbage or spinach leaves, and soften in boiling water as above.

Place a spoonful of stuffing along the edge of a cabbage, spinach or vine leaf, and roll into a cigar shape.

Grease a large pot (it should be large enough that the dolma only fill it ¾ of the way to allow for the expansion of the rice). Line the bottom with the stuffed onions. If using, place the lamb ribs and a few fava beans between the onions on the bottom of the pan (this will allow them to brown). Next, add a layer of vine leaves, followed by layers of the other stuffed vegetables. Layer the tomatoes last to protect them from being squashed.

Make sure that the surface of the top layer is as level as possible and pour the oil around the inside rim of the pan. Place the pan on a low heat for about 5 minutes.

Dilute the tomato paste (if using) in enough water to cover the vegetables by ½ inch (1.25 cm). Season with salt and pepper, and add to the pan.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the water has been absorbed, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the intensity of the heat and the size of the pan. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

Cover the pot with a large plate, hold firmly and flip upside down. Carefully remove the pot, keeping the layers intact. Otherwise, arrange on a plate.

Dolma is a full meal in its own right, but it is usually served with yogurt, salad, pickles and bread. Serves 6 to 8.

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