Dolma can hardly compete with any other food, and is important at every table in the Middle East. It is particularly renowned in Iraq, but is also a typical dish in many other Middle Eastern countries such as Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. The most special aspect of this meal is that it is a sign of celebration and a way of gathering guests, be it friends or family, together to enjoy its irresistible taste.
Dolma, originating in the Middle East, is a traditional dish that has survived for centuries. The word ‘dolma’ derives from Turkey during the Ottoman occupation of Iraq. The Iraqis made some changes and developments on it, such as increasing the amount of minced meat and ghee to make it uniquely Iraqi. Its reputation has spread throughout the world, particularly in Arab countries, and, interestingly enough, it has also become popular in a lot of western countries. It is purchasable in many supermarkets across Europe, although its taste may differ slightly from that of the Iraqi dolma.
Dolma is a very flexible dish, with not only a plethora of varieties unique to different countries, but also variations within the dish itself.
Dolma composed of stuffed vegetables is the most commonly found variation of this dish. Vegetables, typically courgettes, are emptied of their contents, and then stuffed with rice, meat, onions and chopped tomatoes and flavoured with an array of spices. It is also common to serve them with a sauce, such as tomato, that gives it extra moisture and flavour.
Using leaves, such as cabbage or vine, are also a popular take on the dolma dish. Similarly to stuffing vegetables, the leafed-dolma is made by filling the leaves with a filling such as rice, and wrapping the leaf around its contents.
How to prepare?
If using meat, preferably veal or lamb, chop it and mix it with fat, chopped onions, tomatoes and a little garlic and celery. Add this all to a quantity of tomato paste, spices, salt, and rice, then mix them all together.
Moving onto the vegetables, start digging and removing the inside of your chosen vegetable, such as courgette, aubergine, or vine leaves, and stuff them thoroughly with your filling. Once this is done, put a large pot of water on to boil, and stack your dolmas inside the pot to cook on high heat until there is no water left in the bowl. Enjoy your dolmas as they are, or additionally, they can be served with a sauce of your choosing.