Much like kleicha, dolma is another Iraqi family/social affair to make. Gather your family, close friends, and neighbors, and start making dolma!It’s not that it’s difficult; its just time consuming. The vegetables need prep of various kinds (hollowing and blanching of the onion), the stuffing needs to be made, then the vegetables need to be stuffed and arranged in the pot. Possibly the most time consuming might be rolling up the vine leaves.
So what makes Iraqi dolma (دولمة عراقية) different from other stuffed vegetables of the Arabian region? Any connaisseur would swoon and tell you it’s the tanginess in flavor and the redness of the sauce.
The vegetables are really dependent on the region and season. Even cucumbers are stuffed in a Baghdadi dolma! Silverbeet leaves may be blanched and rolled up instead of vineleaves too.
The tanginess may be achieved through different means: either lemon juice, or pomegranate molasses, or tamarind paste, or sumac. Long story short: there are as many minor variations of a dolma as there are families who make it, so the idea is to make it yours, and using what is available to you.
Since the dolma pot is large and takes a while on the stove, I always line the bottom of the pot with thick potato slices, so if anything will burn (very likely), it will be the potatoes, which I can easily throw away.
3 large potatoes, scrubbed
1.5kg fatty lamb rack
5 large white or yellow onions
6-8 baby aubergines
6-8 lebanese courgettes
6 medium tomatoes
1x450g (net) jar drained vine leaves
1.5 kg minced meat
1 1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped dill
1 cup chopped mint
3 cups rice
2 cups fresh lemon juice
2 cups tomato paste
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp 7-spice
1/2 tsp citric acid powder(optional)
4 bouillon cubes
2 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup vinegar
Stage I: Prepare the vegetables and the stuffing:
Prepare the vegetables:
– drain, rinse, and separate the vineleaves
– cut the onions only halfway to the core, from head to root. Boil for 20 minutes then let cool. Separate the onion layers.
– core the baby aubergines, courgettes, and tomato
To make the filling simply mix in a large bowl the minced meat, rice, chopped parsley, dill, mint, tomato paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, 7-spice, citric acid powder (if using), and the cored parts of the aubergines, courgettes, and tomato thoroughly together.
Stage II: Stuff the vegetables and arrange the pot.
Cut the rack into separate chops, season with some salt and pepper, and fry in a large pot until browned on both sides but not cooked through.
Set the meat aside and (off-heat) thickly slice the potatoes and place them in a single layer on the bottom of a medium pot. Return the chops over the potatoes, with their drippings, in single lager.
Fill the onion layers, roll up, and arrange on top of the chops.
Fill the cored aubergines, courgettes, and tomatoes and arrange on top of the vineleaves.
Fill vineleaves with a heaping teaspoon of the filling, fold the sides, then roll up.
Arrange the vinesleaves over the vegetables.
Stage III: Make the sauce and cook.
Place a heavy plate upside down over the dolma.
Whisk the bouillon cubes in the hot water and vinegar until dissolved
Pour the hot stock over them and bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce to a simmer and let cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours.
Remove from heat and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting on the serving dish.
I like to place a disc of bread before inverting to absorb the liquids.
Remove and discard any burnt potato, and serve steaming hot.