Dolma and other gifts from “the old country”

Our fox related chicken loss has been a psychological hurdle to overcome in terms of homesteading morale and motivation but it’s hard to stay stalled for long.

Especially in the peak growth blitz of this hot early summer.

It's like a jungle sometimes

It’s like a jungle sometimes

Veg keep busting out, seedlings keep coming up and the cycle of the seasons keeps turning on and on like some hippy moon flower Byrds cover. Weeds and grass keep making a good grab at your garden beds and it all begs out for love and tending. Resilience and forward motion in the face of disappointment.

It’s nice to plug away at it all. Especially with some exciting milestone harvests lately – first creamy sweet onions, first finger staining beets, first monster load of zukes.

Our proud maiden onion - so creamy, sweet and delicious

Our proud maiden onion – so creamy, sweet and delicious

Monster zucchini

Gigantic zuke plants. Zucchini factories – you can almost harvest daily!

Beetroot

After just 8 weeks of growth, gazoongas!

As well as our annual veg plantings, one of the most exciting perrenials up at the homestead is in full leafy flush…

The vineyard

The vineyard

…and building budding fruit!

Young grapes ripening behind the scenes

Young grapes ripening behind the scenes

Chateau Murrindindi’s well on our way to a sweet 2013 vintage.

With a lot of vine pruning! (and googling and youtubing!).

Huge tendrils in need of trimming

Huge tendrilled vines in need of trimming

What to do with all the incidental greenery though? One of the core principles of permaculture is to produce no waste.

Well, the vine itself was a gift from Greece, via a mate of Leon’s years ago (a beautiful regional red wine grape we’re unsure of the name of). Where it came from, the grape, leaves, vines were all used, in booze, food and construction (including beautiful baskets).

Gorgeous and meticulously woven basket, crafted in the east coast US state of Maryland in the 30s, back when stuff was made proper

Gorgeous and meticulously woven basket, crafted in the east coast US state of Maryland in the 30s, back when stuff was made proper

Amy whet our appetites for dolma recently bringing home some tasty morsels from a Lebanese friend of hers (who is excitingly keen to teach us how to make them).

This weekend, needing something meditative and creative to focus on after a few weeks of travel and to use up the prunings, and armed with this cookbook I decided to give them an early test drive.

When in Thessaloniki…

First I trimmed a generous bundle of vines (only a tiny dent on the pruning block but a start).

Then I separated the large intact leaves in one bowl and the smaller ones and tendrils in another.

Bess, vines and a glass of wine

Bess, vines and a glass of wine

Tendrils and little leaves were chopped and preserved in a brine of 500g salt to 3 1/2 L water. When I’m ready I’ll simmer them and use them with silverbeet (which we also have no shortage of!) in cheese pies – their sharp lemony flavour works really well in harmony with the silverbeet leaves – much like sorrel.

The bigger leaves were trimmed of their short fat stems, neatly stacked in a shallow bowl 20 high, poured over with boiling water, left to sit for 5 minutes then drained. Rinse, repeat…. the process was continued til all were sorted.

Prepping and blanching the leaves ready for rolling

Prepping and blanching the leaves ready for rolling

500g of minced organic lamb was mixed with 1 cup of arborio rice, 1 tbsp chopped oregano, 4 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and a proper glog of 2/3 cup of olive oil.

The filling mixture

The filling mixture

Dolma in construction

Dolma in construction

This business was stacked in little sausage shaped blobs at the base of each leaf. Then you fold over the two little side burns, and roll the thing up to the leaf tip like a cigar.

The process reminded me of the epic tray loads of cabbage rolls my German nan and Russian pop would make, sitting at their kitchen table filling and rolling, filling and rolling for hours on end.

Especially when I was very small and had little mind for geography pop would actually explain “this is how we did it in the old country” which is pretty endearing, but also a fairly apt metaphor for the departure of the modern world from the old ways of doing things.

So many of his practices around making things from scratch, using things that would otherwise go to waste, saving things for later which seemed a bit eccentric in modern days would be tagged with this brush. It’s always a nice piece of nostalgia to ponder on this and remember the things that he tried to teach.

When I was good and done down memory lane I packed the dolma tightly in a heavy based pan (cast iron = awesome) and then topped them with an overturned plate that fit inside the pan. Poured in 1 cup of water and simmered with the lid on for 1 hour.

Spiralling

Spiralling

And spiralling

And spiralling

Verdict: pretty alright!

The finish line. After all that they were pretty nice

The finish line. After all that they were nice

Looking forward to dolma fest take 2, 3, 4, etc…  So much vine trimming to do. Plus a little basket weaving perhaps if this summer heat sends us any crazier.

Last night's dinner stowaway

Last night’s dinner stowaway

Catch ya round in frog town!

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2 Responses to Dolma and other gifts from “the old country”

  1. No grape leaves up here, and we miss them! Lovely life you’re carving out.

    • Murrindindi says:

      It is indeed. Love your blog too, you write beautifully of your frontier country and I am going to find it hard to shake overnight french toasts as my new brekkie obsession!

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