My Mum is definitely the best cook I know.
Making several dishes for every course doesn't phase her at all and she never cuts corners. Every part of every meal is homemade. She taught me the art of patience when making food. Instead of seeing the task ahead as a marathon, she sees it as a chance to contemplate and relax. So with that in mind, for her, making Dolmades is a doddle. It took me a while to regard cooking as a relaxing hobby but I now love planting myself the kitchen to roll up these Ottoman beauties, as I listen to my favourite music blaring through my headphones.
Dolma in Turkish means Stuffed. The Lebanese and Greeks also make a version of these delicate vine parcels, but I'm biased. For me, Mum's recipe is to die for, oozing with flavour. Eat them warm (not hot) or cold with dollops of strained yogurt and let the bursting flavours take you back to your favourite Mediterranean holiday. Time consuming but the result is exquisite.
Prep time:45 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
1.5 cups rice (Baldo rice)
2 large onions
Mint chilli flakes
1/2-1 cup olive oil
40-50 vine leaves in brine or from frozen (available from any Mediterranean shop)
Strained yoghurt to serve (optional)
1.Cook leaves in boiling water for 5 mins. Cool and drain
2.Spread a leaf on a plate (veiny side up), place a spoonful of prepared rice on them (see photo above), 3.Fold each corner over and roll them into fat little parcels
4.Place them tightly in a pan and pour one cup of boiling water on the top (or enough to cover the bottom layer), then place a small plate on top to keep the dolmades in place while cooking
5.Cook on the hob for 30 mins on medium heat or .in the oven at 180C until they absorb all the water. 6.When cooked turn off the heat.
7.Once the dolmades are cool enough, serve or refrigerate. They keep for up to 4 or 5 days.
This recipe was given to me by my Mother’s lovely Greek friend Elli. There are many versions of this cake out there but none match the silky soft texture and aromatic flavour of this one. It has been a family favourite for years and I share this with you in her memory. Elli was like a sister to my Mum, She was a small, jovial, kind-hearted lady and an amazing cook. Enjoy her wonderful recipe and let me know how you get on with it.
Prep time:30 mins
Cook time: 35-40 mins
200g unsalted butter at room temperature,
150g caster sugar,
200g ground almonds,
100g fine polenta (or cornmeal),
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder,
4 medium eggs,
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons and 120g icing sugar
1.Line the base and sides of a 24cm / 9inch springform cake tin with baking paper
2.Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
3.Beat the butter and sugar till creamy
4.Mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture. Then add alternately dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while
5.Drop in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into a tin and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
6.When cooked the edges of the cake will shrink away from the sides of the tin.
7.Remove the tin from the oven and leave to cool
8.Make the syrup by boiling the lemon juice and icing sugar together in a small saucepan
9.Make small pricks all over the top of the cake using a cake tester
10.Pour the warm syrup over the cake and leave to cool before removing from the tin
With yogurt or creme fraiche and blueberries.