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(Dolmades, dolmadakia yalantsi)

A very traditional and famous mezé and delicious vegetarian dish is a plate of dolmades yalantsi, usually served with a dollop of thick, creamy yoghurt, or dolmádes avgolemono, stuffed vine leaves with egg and lemon sauce.
Tinned, ready-made Greek dolmades, with rice stuffing, served cold, with plenty of lemon to squeeze over them, make wonderful picnic fare!

about 20 – 30 vine leaves
3 medium onions, finely chopped
7 oz (200 g) white, long-grain rice, pepper, salt
1 tbs. each of chopped parsley and chopped mint
2 cups (16 fl oz/450 ml) olive oil
juice of a lemon

Wash bought vine leaves carefully under running water to remove the brine and then pat dry on soft tea cloths or kitchen paper; if using fresh leaves blanch for ½ minute in boiling water. Sauté the onion gently in a little oil, then add the rice, seasonings, parsley and mint and a cup of water and boil gently until the water has been absorbed.
Place a small amount of the cooled rice mixture on the vine leaf (stem end), fold it over, tuck in the sides and roll up firmly.
Line a shallow saucepan or casserole with some overlapping leaves, then pack the rolled leaves tightly together on top of them, “seam” downwards. Cover with more leaves tucking them tightly down the sides of the pan so that the dolmadákia do not move around while cooking. Add the rest of the oil, lemon juice and a little water so that the dolmadákia are just covered, place the lid on the pan or casserole and slimmer gently for about 40 minutes or until the covering leaves are soft.
For dolmádes avgolémono make the sauce as follows:
Drain off the cooking liquid from the pan. Beat together two eggs and the juice of two lemons, stir in a little of the liquid in which the dolmádes were cooked, then whisk this mixture together with the rest of the liquid, pour over the dolmádes and cook over the lowest possible heat for about 2 minutes. Leave to stand away from the heat for five minutes, by which time the sauce should have thickened. Serves 6-8 as a mezé.
Variation using ground meat:
After you have sautéed the onions add 3 oz (90g) finely minced lean lamb or beef, brown slightly then add 3 ½ oz (100 g) rice, the seasonings etc and proceed as above. Use this to stuff the vine leaves.

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