This isn’t something you cook every day. This is a special dish you cook two or three times a year and when you do it, you make everyone in the family (including yourself) so happy!
It takes several hours of preparation and needs patience but it’s worth the effort.
You can serve it as a main dish with plain yogurt or next to other delicacies on a festive table.
- 500g vine leaves
- 650g white rice, washed & strained well
- 650g onions, chopped
- 3 spring onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 50g dill, chopped
- 30g mint, chopped
- 2 lemons, juice & zest
- 200ml olive oil (for the filling)
- 200ml olive oil (for cooking)
- 500ml warm water
- freshly ground pepper
- If the vine leaves are fresh, scald them in boiling water for 3min to soften them. If they’re preserved in brine, scald them for 2min to eliminate their alkaline taste. Strain them well before using.
- Separate about 15 leaves (the biggest & roughest) and set aside. You’ll need them later.
Heat 200ml olive oil in a deep pan on medium heat.
Add the onions and stir constantly for 5 to 7 min until they soften well.
Continue with the spring onions and the carrots.
Mix well and lower heat.
Add the rice and keep stirring for another 4 min.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add 50ml warm water, stir & remove from heat.
Mix in the dill, the mint and the zest of both lemons.
Squeeze out the juice of one lemon and add it to the mixture.
Stir well and let the filling cool down.
Put a vine leaf on a flat surface.
Put a full teaspoon of filling in the middle.
Fold the right & left side and roll it, forming a small cylinder.
For the moment, put them in a deep baking pan until they’re all wrapped.
- Some leaves are too small to enwrap the filling. Join two of them to make a bigger one.
- Use the torn leaves to mend the ones that may have holes.
Oil a large, wide pot and cover its bottom with half of the leaves you’ve kept aside.
- This way you create a protective layer under the sarmadakia so that they won’t get burned. Don’t skip this step; they’re quite sensitive.
Put the sarmadakia in the pot, one next to the other in circular rows.
Make sure you leave some space between them, to allow water circulation.
Season with salt & pepper.
Squeeze out the juice of the second lemon and pour it over.
Add the olive oil and half of the water.
Cover the surface with the remaining leaves.
This way you ensure they retain their green colour.
Cover with an old ceramic plate and put a flat pebble on top. If you don’t have one, use a cup filled with water. You just want something heavy to keep them steady, so that they won’t open as they boil.
Add the rest of the water. The liquid must cover half of the plate. If needed, add a little more warm water.
Cook on low heat for 60 minutes, with half open lid.
Let them cool down and then remove the layer of leaves.
Serve with tzatziki, tirokafteri or plain yogurt.
- If you can get a large amount of fresh vine leaves in spring, scald & strain them well. Divide into 250g portions and wrap them with food membrane. Keep them in the freezer for the whole year.
- The reason we pre cook the filling, is to soften the vegetables so that they have a sweet, milder taste. You can make the filling in shorter time simply by mixing all the ingredients (raw) in a bowl. In this case, cooking will last about 90min.