Tolma (dolma) stuffed grape leaves

Tolma (dolma, խախողի թփով տոլմա) dish is very popular in our family. This is an interpretation of my grandmother's traditional recipe that I used to help her make at home.
Tolma - Dolma dish


300 grams grape leaves (sold at stores in glass jars with vinegar or salt brine)
2 gypsy peppers, 1 eggplant, or 2 large tomatoes for stuffing in addition to grape leaves (optional)
500 grams ground beef
50 grams butter, at room temperature
30 grams uncooked white or brown rice (optional)
1 large onion, chopped finely

1/4 cup finely cut fresh parsley or cilantro, or 1 teaspoon dried herb
1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
salt and pepper to taste 

For dressing
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, pressed

First prepare grape leaves and vegetables (optional). Remove grape leaves from a jar with care and blanch in a medium pot of simmering water for 2 minutes, then with the help of a slotted spoon or tongues transfer grape leaves into a bowl with ice cold water to prevent leaves from softening. Remove stem and seeds from peppers, ream out insides of eggplant and tomatoes (optional).

In a medium bowl combine ground beef, uncooked rice, chopped onion, butter, herbs and spices. Mix all ingredients by hand, using spatula or blender at low speed.
layer of tolmas in a pot

Oil or butter the bottom of the pot and place a few grape leaves on the bottom before arranging stuffed vegetables and wrapped tolmas.
grape leaves and ground beef stuffing
Place 1 teaspoonful of stuffing in the middle of grape leaf, on less shiny side, and wrap it tightly as shown below. Or stuff vegetables with the mixture. allowing some room for expansion on top.
wrapping ground beef stuffing with grape leaves

Cover the top layer of tolmas with a few leaves.
grape leaves covering top layer of tolmas

Place on top a small or medium size heavy plate (that fits in the pot) upside down to prevent tolmas rising in the middle and floating while cooking. Add enough water to barely cover the surface. Cook on low-medium for 45 - 60 minutes. Serve warm with yogurt and garlic sauce. Cooking juice can be served with tolma in a bowl or used to reheat later.

Bon appetit!           


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