Assyrian Dolma (stuffed vine leaves)

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that since the beginning of the year I have been following the Slimming World plan in a bid to shift a few pounds before my 35th birthday in June. I have been absolutely amazed at how much you can eat and still lose weight!  It really isn’t a diet; I’m certainly not missing out on anything, in fact I’m eating more than I was before and getting better results!
At group on Tuesday we had a taster session where members brought in all kinds of delicious food to try and inspire the other members to try new things. The Assyrian in me has been delighted at how easily adaptable a lot of my native dishes are to the Slimming World plan, so I thought I’d rustle up some Dolma (stuffed vine leaves), with Iynee and Gneve (literally translated as eyes and eyelashes! – I know, I don’t get it either.  Basically a spicy tomato salsa and greek yoghurt).

They were a hit, with every last one being devoured.  They are fiddly to make, but well worth the time investment. Here’s the recipe, passed down from my Granny, to my mum, to me. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 packets of preserved vine leaves

1lb minced beef or lamb (less than 5% fat).  Alternatively you can make these vegetarian by leaving out the meat and adding in an extra half cup of rice.

1 mug basmati rice

1 large onion

5 spring onions

5 tomatoes

celery leaves

1 green pepper

large bunch of fresh dill

large bunch of fresh parsley

2 cloves crushed garlic

juice of half a lemon

salt & black pepper

1 dsp garam masala

1 tsp cayenne pepper

3 tbsp tomato puree

Method:

Soak the preserved vine leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Chop the onion, spring onions, tomatoes, celery leaves, green pepper and herbs as finely as possible.  Fry the onion and garlic before adding the meat, if using, spices, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes to the pan. and cook through.  Allow the mixture to cool before adding in the rest of the ingredients.

While the mixture is cooling sort through the vines leaves, lining the bottom of a heavy casserole pan with any torn ones (this will prevent the dolma from sticking).

When the stuffing is cool, place a dessert spoon of it on the base of a vine leaf, fold the sides in and roll up tightly. Stack the dolmas in the casserole pan as you go. Place a ceramic saucer on top of the dolma once you’ve rolled and staked them all in the pan to prevent them moving around when cooking.

Cooking: 

Mix together 1.5 cups of boiling water with 1 chicken stock cube, 1 tbsp tomato puree and the juice of half a lemon. Pour over the dolma and boil them for 15 minutes on a medium heat, before turning down to low and cooking slowly for around 45 minutes.  Take care not to overcook – soggy rice is grim.

Serving:

Serve with Greek yogurt and make a salsa by frying off 1 onion, 1 crushed clove of garlic, and then adding in 1 tbsp tomato puree, 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, salt and block pepper.

Delicious!

Easy homemade sweet and sour sauce

Sweet and sour is one of those dishes most of us love to eat, but few of us know how to make from scratch. The good news is its actually very easy using a few cheats such as good old ketchup!

For the sauce you’ll need:
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1tbsp light soy sauce
2tbsp tomato ketchup
A medium sized can of pineapple rings in juice cut into chunks.
1 tbsp light brown sugar 
2tsp cornflour mixed with a little cold water.

Heat the vinegar, soy, ketchup, pineapple juice and sugar gently until the sugar dissolves, add the cornflour paste and bring to a gentle simmer stiring constantly. Take off the heat and add the pineapple chunks. Leave to infuse while you stir fry whatever veg and meat/fish you want.

image

When the meat/fish/veg and done to your liking, taste the sauce, add more sugar, vinegar, ketchup or soy if needed and pour the sauce over the veg.  Serve with rice or noodles. 

image

Thai Massaman Curry

image

My sister lived in Thailand a few years back and raved about this curry. On her return she cooked it for me and my love for this hot, yet creamy, crunchy taste sensation was born. I’ve tried a a few different shop bought pastes, but none of them compared to the one we got from from the only Thai restaurant in our town… Until now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making pastes from scratch, but there’s a time and place for this, and Friday evening, with an over tired toddler, a stressed out husband who’s trying to prepare for Sunday’s service as well as write his final assignment for this year’s uni deadline in six days time, and a mummy, who for one reason or another, is feeling more frazzled than usual, is not the time to be lovingly grinding and chopping and whizzing to make a homemade paste. Cue the new tub I discovered at the supermarket.

image

I love the fact I can’t read half the info on the packaging. It’s more authentic,  and lures me into thinking it’s going to taste better than the British versions. In this case it was true.  I fried off the paste in the Thai and wild garlic infused coconut oil I made the other day, then added in a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce, some tamarind paste and a tablespoon of soft dark sugar (in liu of palm sugar), a can of coconut milk some chicken (although traditionally beef or lamb is used, I just didn’t have any to hand), and then some chunky chopped peppers and onions. I added them in half way through so they retained a bit of crunch.

Just before serving I threw in a handful of chopped coriander retaining a bit for a garnish. Serve with steamed basmati rice, a sprinkling of coriander and a small handful of peanuts.

image

It was delicious, and certainly rivaled the one our Thai restaurant makes.