Simple Turkish Sarma
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- 500 g brined grape leaves rinsed
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion small diced
- 1 small tomato grated
- 1 cup rice rinsed and drained
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- 1 tbsp black currant
- 1 tsp dried mint
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp parsley chopped
- ½ cup water
- ½ lemon sliced
- ½ lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¾ cup water
- Soak the black currants in hot water for about 15 minutes, then drain them. Set aside.
- Soak the brined grape leaves in warm water for about half an hour.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot, add the onions to the pan, and saute until it gets translucent.
- Add the pine nuts, black currants, and sugar to the pan, and continue to saute. After about 30-45 seconds, add the soaked rice to the pan. Saute for about a few minutes.
- Add the grated tomato, spices, and salt to the pan. Saute them together for about 30 seconds, then pour the water into the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes until the rice is half-cooked without fully absorbing the water. Add the parsley to the pan and stir them together. Set it aside to cool down.
- Take the grape leaves from the soaking water, and place them on a clean surface with the vein side up and shiny side down. Then cut off the stem, and save the stems for cooking.
- Put ½ tablespoon of stuffing adjacent to the stem of the leaf.
- Fold the stem side first, then the two edges over the stuffing. Roll the leaf until it gets a cylindrical shape. Repeat this step for each remaining leaf.
- Place the unrolled grape leaves on the bottom of a cooking pot. On this leaf, place the sarmas adjacent to each other.
- Put the thin lemon slices on the stuffed grape leaves, then squeeze the lemon on them.
- Drizzle the olive oil and pour the water into the pot.
- Cover the lemon slice layer with a few grape leaves and put the stems over these leaves so that the stuffed grape leaves do not darken. Close the lid and cook on high heat until the water boils, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 90 minutes until it gets tender.
- Serve warm or cold. Bon appetit!
Tips, Notes & Substitutes:
Sarma is a traditional Turkish dish made of grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, onion, and spices. It is usually served as a side dish or appetizer but can also be made as a main dish.
- Finding grape leaves can be pretty tricky; you can substitute with canned or jarred grape leaves. Just be sure to rinse them well before using them. If you are going to use fresh grape leaves, you need to boil them in salted water.
- You can make the filling for sarma ahead of time. In fact, it’s often better to make the filling a day or so in advance so that the flavors have time to meld.
- Salt is the most critical part of the sarma! You should definitely consider the salt ratio of the leaf when adding salt to the stuffing.
- When rolling the sarma, tuck in the ends, so the filling doesn’t spill out. Be careful not to tear it while rolling, but not too tight or loose.
- Spread a few grape leaves on the bottom of the pot. After arranging all the sarmas, cover them with grape leaves again. This method eliminates the possibility of darkening the sarmas. It will also prevent scattering. Alternatively, you can cover the pot with a porcelain plate.
- When cooking the sarma, be sure to simmer them so that they don’t fall apart.
If you follow these tips, you’ll surely end up with delicious, traditional Turkish sarma. You can serve it with lemon slices or plain yogurt. Enjoy!
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