Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I love sarma, sometimes called dolma. Grape leaves stuffed with rice and beef, served with yogurt on top. It is a time consuming food to make. But, doing it yourself, afterwards, every mouthful tastes like gold.


1 1/2 pounds of ground beef

3 onions diced finely

1 tsp of salt

2 cups of uncooked short grain rice

1/2 cup of water

5 tablespoons of tomato paste

2 1/2 of black pepper

1/4 cup of olive oil

3 teaspoons of mint

75 to 100 medium grape leaves

If you can’t find fresh, brined will do.

Take all of the ingredients above and combine, except the grapeleaves and the lemon.  Mix thoroughly. The seasoning will be most evenly distributed if you knead it with your hands.

Set the mixture aside.  Wash the leaves, then place them in a boiling pot of water for 5 minutes, until tender, but not too soft.  If the leaves were brined soak them in cool water and rinse before use.  Firmly squeeze out any water, but be careful not to rip the leaves.

To Fill

Gently separate each leaf, (I recommend readying several at once then rolling assembly style) tear off the steam. Holding the leaf vein side up, place a small amount of filling horizontally

1. Looking at your left palm, turn down the right corner of the leaf

2. Now the left corner.

3. & 4. Bring first the right then the left sides of the leaf in, in a parallel fold

3. Fold

4. Fold

5. Now the tricky part. Using your thumb to keep the roll tight, start rolling the filling down towards the bottom of the leaf.

Keep it Tight (or it will spill all over the place)

Whew! Finished!

Now, go make a hundred more. Make sure not to stuff them too much or when the rice expands during cooking it will burst the grape leaf.  When you are finished, take a heavy bottomed pot with a lid, cover the bottom with grape leaves(the ones that ripped or seemed tough), then carefully place your sarmas inside, seam side down, close together but not tightly packed. Place them in concentric circles leaving the middle of the pot open.

Add enough water to cover the sarmas (I used the water I cooked the grape leaves in, because it has all the nutrients from the grape leaves.) Juice the lemon and add it to the water. Cook on the stovetop on a low heat, for about an hour, until the rice is done. At 50 minutes, check on the rice, if it is not done, give it another 10 minutes or so. When serving, it is great with yogurt on top. I love to add mashed garlic to my yogurt, and then spoon it on top.

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