Dilsemi comes from Turkey, but her desire to expand her horizons and become an English teacher led to her seeking pastures new. She still misses home and knows that food is a great comforter. Dilsemi kindly shared her story and recipe with us, so that you could also have a taste of this wonderful dish.
This dish could be made with cabbage leaves or with meat as well, but this one is my favorite dishes, and since I left Turkey, I miss it so so much. I promise you’ll roll your eyes with enjoyment. I hope you’ll make it and enjoy it as much as I do!!!
1 package of vine leaves
2 & 3/4 cups white rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
1 tablespoon pepper paste or additional tablespoon of tomato paste
1 lemon, sliced
Pepper and salt
1 vegetable stock cube
Rinse the rice well.
Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the rice and fry quickly. Add the tomato and pepper paste and stir everything together well. Fry for about a minute.
Add parsley, paprika powder, mint, pepper, and salt. Use a bit more than you would usually do because in the boiling process, part of the flavor will evaporate. Stir well and take the pan off the heat. You are going to fill the vine leaves with uncooked rice. The rice will be cooked later with the vine leaves. Leave the mixture to cool down.
In the meantime, take the vine leaves from the package and carefully take them apart. Rinse them one by one.
Put all the leaves in a pan with boiled water (not on the stove) and leave them for five minutes. Drain.
Take a large pan and put some olive oil on the bottom. Put a few broken vine leaves on the bottom of the pan. This will stop the sarma from sticking to the pan.
Now you can start rolling the vine leaves. Use a cutting board to put the vine leaves on. On one side of the board, put the pan with the rice mixture and put a plate with vine leaves and on the other side to put the sarma in.
Take a vine leave and put it on the cutting board with the veins up. Cut or break the stem off carefully. Put a little bit of the rice mixture onto the bottom of the leaf. Make sure you leave some space between the rice and the end of the leaf. Take the two lowest ends of the leaf and fold them over the rice. Do the same for the left and the right end of the leaf. Then roll up the leaf tightly from the bottom to the top. The first ones will be a bit difficult, but after a few you will know how to do it.
Put the sarma into the pan and repeat the same steps for the other vine leaves. Make sure that you put the sarma close to each other in the pan. If they are too loose, the rolls can open while cooking. If the bottom of the pan has been filled, you can put the next sarma on top of the others.
When you have finished all the sarmas, cut a lemon into slices. Put the slices on top of the sarmas and put a plate, turned upside-down on top of that. This will prevent the sarmas from opening while boiling.
Mix boiling water with a tablespoon of tomato paste and a stock cube. Pour the water into the pan until the plate is just under water. Put the pan on the stove and bring to boil.
Leave the sarmas to simmer for 45 minutes on low heat. It is important that you use a pan that is big enough because the sarmas will get bigger while boiling. The rice increases in volume when it is cooked.
Turn off the heat after 45 minutes and leave the sarmas in the pan with a lid on (without draining the water) for at least 30 more minutes.