Spring is here and ever tuned to the seasons, this week saw my mother in law plucking the very freshest, new leaves on the grape vine in her garden to make this classic spring favourite, dolmádes with avgolemono (Ντολμάδες με αυγολέμονο).
Ma's dolmádes are filled with a little ground beef, rice and herbs. While dolmades can be made all year around with preserved vine leaves, they are at their very best when you are able to source fresh new spring grape vine leaves.
While they are often served as a meze, ma advised that dolmádes also make for a tasty, simple lunch - along with a plate of good quality Greek feta and some homemade potato chips, cooked in Greek olive oil and dusted with a generous amount of rigani.
Ma's dolmádes with avgolemono (Ντολμάδες με αυγολέμονο)
About 60 fresh, new season grape vine leaves (or 1 jar of large grape leaves in brine)
1kg of lean ground beef
1 cup of short-grain rice
2 medium-large onions, one red & one brown, finely chopped
1/2 cup of Greek olive oil
1 small bunch of fresh dill, chopped
1 small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
juice of 2 fresh lemons
Salt & pepper to taste
For the Avgolemono:
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup lemon juice, strained
¾ cup hot broth from the pot
1. If using fresh vine leaves, blanch the vine leaves in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then refresh in batches of cold water to cool.
2. If using preserved leaves, remove from the packaging and let them stand for half an hour in a basin with cold water, then unroll them in the water. Rinse them well and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Next, prepare the filling. Start by soaking the rice for about half an hour in hot water, with a pinch of salt and then drain. Sauté the onions in a little olive oil until translucent. In a separate bowl, combine the onions, ground beef, rice, about 100ml of olive oil, parsley, juice of 1 lemon, and pepper. Mix well by hand and knead the mixture until well combined.
4. Coat the bottom of a pot with a further 100ml of olive oil and cover with about 4 grape leaves.
5. Set the remaining grape leaves on a work surface, vein side up and stalk end towards you. Working with one leaf at a time, flatten the leaf and place about 1 tsp. rice and beef mixture in the center. Fold the bottom stalk end of leaf over filling, fold in sides, and then roll up completely.
6. Place the rolled leaves seam side down in the pot. Place close together, in layers, so they don’t unravel.
7. Season with salt and pepper and add 2 cups of water, the juice of 1 lemon and a final generous drizzle of olive oil. Cover them with a small plate to keep them submerged; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until rice and meat filling is cooked and tender, about 40 minutes.
8. For the avgolemono: In a small nonreactive saucepan, whisk the egg yolks until pale and frothy. Slowly add the lemon juice and whisk for another minute. Place over low heat and very slowly add all of the broth in a steady stream, constantly whisking. Take care not to get the pan and mixture too hot as it will cause the eggs to curdle. When the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and pour over the dolmades.