With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, a recipe for Greek stuffed grape leaves, prepped in a slow cooker.
After Eleni Vonissakou’s discovery of the slow cooker, everything changed. The Athens-based food blogger, who runs the site The Foodie Corner, transformed all her favorite Greek dishes into simple, approachable, hands-off recipes—all easily made in a slow cooker.
Crock-Pot SCV800-B, 8-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker, $33.33 on Amazon
Her cookbook “The Greek Slow Cooker” boasts some 75 recipes, all authentically Greek and geared toward weeknight cooking. In just a few hours, you can curl up with a comforting bowl of hearty egg-lemon chicken soup or slice into squares of no-crust spinach and feta pie. Most recipes only take a couple of hours to prepare in the slow cooker, allowing you plenty of time outside of the kitchen.
Related Reading: Everything You Need to Know About Slow Cookers
Keep reading to see Eleni’s recipe for stuffed grapevine leaves with rice. Dolmadakia (a.k.a., stuffed grape leaves) has long been a fundamental dish in Mediterranean cooking and is found in many different forms throughout the world, including Central Asia, India, and the Middle East. Often rolled with rice, herbs, and occasionally ground meat, these finger-sized pockets serve as an impressive appetizer—and aren’t as complicated to make as they look.
The Greek Slow Cooker, $21.99 on Amazon
Reprinted with permission from The Greek Slow Cooker by Eleni Vonissakou, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019.
Stuffed Vine Leaves with Rice (Dolmadakia) Recipe
You are probably familiar with the term dolma. The origin of the word is thought to come from the Turkish word dolmak (to fill). Stuffed vegetables of all kinds, however, feature in many cuisines, from Middle Eastern all the way to Italian. In Greece, the specific word dolmadakia means stuffed vine leaves (grape leaves) with rice, herbs and in some cases ground meat. Depending on the area, they might range from small to tiny. Tiny “packages” that deliver a burst of flavor when popped in your mouth! Here I’m sharing my favorite, the rice version. It’s amazing how a few simple ingredients can deliver such a delicious result. These dolmadakia are best enjoyed at room temperature with Greek yogurt.
Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves with Rice)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3⁄4 cup finely chopped onion, lightly packed
- 1 cup finely chopped spring onions, lightly packed
- 1 cup long-grain rice uncooked
- 3⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
- 1⁄2 cup finely chopped dill leaves, tightly packed
- 1⁄2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves, tightly packed
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped spearmint leaves, tightly packed
- 3⁄4 teaspoon salt 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
- 40–50 vine leaves, plus 4–5 extra, preserved in brine, carefully separated, rinsed and drained, stalks removed
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, divided 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra, to serve
- 3 tablespoons reshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra, to serve
- Water, to cover rolls
- Greek yogurt, to serve
- To make the filling, place 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of the olive oil, the onions and the spring onions in a large, nonstick frying pan over medium heat (no need to heat the oil first). Let the onions cook for 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the rice, stir to coat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the water, stir and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the mixture is dry.
- Take the pan off the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil, dill, parsley, spearmint, salt and pepper. Stir well.
- To make the dolmadakia, clear some space in front of you on a clean work surface, and bring the filling, the vine leaves and the slow cooker insert close by.
- Place a prepared vine leaf on the work surface, with the side with the veins facing upwards. Take a tablespoon of the mixture, either level or rounded depending on the size of the leaf, and put it toward the bottom end of the leaf, near where the stalk was. Fold the left and right sides up and over the filling, then bring the bottom up and roll toward the top, creating a tube-shaped parcel. Place it in the slow cooker insert with the seal on the bottom. See page 102 for how to fill and roll dolmadakia.
- Continue with all the vine leaves and stuffing, placing the dolmadakia close to each other snugly. There should be no spaces between any of them, or they might open up during cooking. There will be one full layer and one that may not be complete. Sprinkle about 1⁄8 teaspoon salt and 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper between each layer.
- Drizzle the top layer with the 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of olive oil and the lemon juice.
- Lay the extra leaves, unstuffed and open, on top of the dolmadakia to cover them. This will help to keep them moist while cooking. Place a small plate on top (it should be small enough to fit in the pot and sit on top of the dolmadakia) to keep everything in place. No need to invert it as it’s easier to lift out if it’s the right way up.
- Pour water very gently and slowly over the dolmadakia, to the side of the plate, until it’s just covering them. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, or until most of the water has been absorbed and the stuffed vine leaves are glossy from the oil. Turn the slow cooker off and let the dolmadakia cool completely in the insert. They will absorb the rest of the liquid while resting.
- Serve the dolmadakia at room temperature, with a drizzle of olive oil if desired, a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Header image courtesy of Eleni Vonissakou and Constantina Papageorgiou.