Come join my mother-in-law and me as we make Turkish Aegean-style sarma together. The word sarma translates to "wrapped" which makes sense as we wrap the grapes leaves around a delicious and flavorful filling. We filmed this video in the Spring of 2020 when the grape leaves were fresh off the vine but you can find jarred grape leaves all year long. Sarma is a dish that can be found all over the Middle East, South-Eastern Europe, and other countries influenced by the Ottoman Empire. Countries like Greece, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Romania, and Iran have their own modification of the dish and even within Turkey, there are many variances. In Turkey, sarma refers to grapes leaves stuffed with a rice mixture while dolma refers to any other vegetables stuffed with rice. For example, rice stuffed into cabbage leaves, peppers, eggplant, or zucchini are referred to as dolma.
150-200 fresh grape leaves, rinsed and blanched
3 cups, Turkish Baldo rice, rinsed and cleaned
1/4 cup, tomato paste
2 1/2 cups, canned tomatoes
1 cup, freshly chopped mint
1 cup, freshly chopped parsley
1 medium-sized onion, (1-2 cups) finely chopped
2 to 3 cups, spring onion (optional)
1 cup, olive oil
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
Salt + Pepper to taste
Take your fresh grape leaves, wash them and then quickly blanch the leaves in boiling water and moving to cold water or a plate. Take some time to lay the leaves out flat and organize them, it will help the rolling process move along more smoothly.
In a large mixing bowl, add the uncooked (but rinsed) rice, tomato paste, tomatoes, mint, parsley, onion, spring onion, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
Take a grape leaf and place a tablespoon (adjust according to the size of the leaf) of the rice mixture into the bottom center of the leaf, near the stem. Roll the leaf while tucking in the edges as you roll (think burrito). Place the rolled sarma into a large cooking pot. Then get comfortable and keep rolling because this will take some time to complete.
Once all the leaves and rice are used and your pot is filled, place a couple of slices of lemon on top of the sarma. Pour water over the sarma to a little lower than the top layer of the sarma. Bring the water to a boil, let boil for 10-12 minutes and then turn off the heat and leave the sarma pot covered for 20 minutes.
Eat immediately with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil on top!