The Slow Cooker: Dolmades

Sunday, 26 July 2009

I've been away for a long time and I'm sorry. I've been working hard recently at a school doing admin work just up until the end of term. I've also been doing some other bits and pieces and have just had no time to blog. That doesn't mean I haven't had time to cook! Of course not, I'm still cooking loads of meals for the family and have a backlog of entries for you. I'm on holiday with my mum at the moment so I figured now was a good time to get all caught up.

As well as cooking normal family meals; I cooked a mezze type meal for my parents and two of their closest friends and it was all delicious. I tried several new recipes and will be posting them all as I work through them starting with slow cooker dolmades.

I'd never eaten dolmades before let alone made them (I seem to do that quite a lot don't I?). In case you don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain what they are. Dolmades are stuffed vine leaves and they can be stuffed with all kinds of things. I used minced beef and bulgar wheat with a few flavourings and spices and they were delicious.

I decided to use the slow cooker for these as I was busy making lots of other dishes and wanted to be able to leave them alone to cook for a couple of hours while I got on with everything else.

We had a vacuum sealed pack of vine leaves in the cupboard that needed using. I started by opening the bag and rinsing the leaves in cold water to remove some of the salt and liquid from the packet. I didn't really measure the ingredients for this one and mostly eye-balled it.

Vine leaves
250g minced beef
2 small handfuls of uncooked bulgar wheat
Selection of dried herbs and spices (mint, mixed herbs, paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder - use whatever you like!)
Stock or water (enough to come 2-3 inches up the sides of your slow cooker)

Put the bulgar wheat into a bowl and pour enough boiling water over to cover then cover the bowl with cling film and leave to stand.
In a separate bowl, mix the meat and spices together and add the bulgar wheat once most of the liquid has been absorbed.
To make the parcels, take a leaf and place it shiny side down onto a board. Add a small amount of mixture (it varies according to the size of the leaf) and fold in the two outward sides into the centre. Finally, roll the parcel away from you and place seam side down into the steamer insert in your slow cooker.
To cook the filled leaves, put some stock or water into the bottom of your slow cooker and then a steamer insert over the top (I balanced mine on 2 metal egg cups - it's all about improvisation!). I also used home made chicken stock and it did seem to impart some flavour. Place the little parcels into the steamer insert, put the lid on and then switch the slow cooker onto low. The dolmades will take 2-3 hours and are cooked when they feel quite firm to the touch.

I'd recommend using beef or lamb if you are going to use meat at all. I think that these could be equally delicious with a mixture of vegetables but I do think you need some kind of starch int here like rice of cous cous or bulgar wheat. These can take a lot of alteration and modification.

We had ours cold but these would be delicious warm with a home made tomato based sauce.


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