Iwas first introduced to dolmadákia, or dolmas, at Colossus of Rhodes, a Greek tavern in Mississauga, Ontario. My best friend and I, big-haired and single in those days, enjoyed coaxing gossip from the bartender about Manny, the handsome owner who made us feel as if we were his special guests. (We later learned the bartender was Manny’s father.)

I’ve made dolmas over the years but none compared to Manny’s. After tracking him down, he kindly agreed to pass along the recipe (a list of ingredients with no quantities and only vague instructions).  After a bit of tinkering, I think I’ve come pretty close to the dolma of my dreams.

Thanks to Manny, for the dolma and the great memories.


Makes About 36


■ 56 California vines leaves, from a jar
■ 1 pound (raw) ground beef or lamb
■ 1 large egg
■ 2 cups finely chopped onions, about 2 medium onions
■ 1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped, stems reserved
■ 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped, stems reserved
■ 1/3 cup dried mint
■ 1 Tbsp cumin seeds, finely ground with a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle (if using a mortar and pestle, tip the ground seeds though a fine-mesh strainer to remove any large pieces)
■ 2 cups Arborio (short grain) rice, uncooked
■ 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
■ 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
■ 1 lemon, thinly sliced
■ 4 cups chicken stock or water, plus more as needed  (chicken stock yields great flavour)

Lemon Sauce

■ 3 large eggs
■ Juice from three lemons
■ 1 1/2 cups of cooking liquid from the dolmas
■ 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
■ 2 1/4 tsp dried chicken broth mix, such a Knorr brand


■ Lemon slices

Cooking Instructions

Unfurl about 56 vine leaves (some will be damaged), place in a colander and rinse.  Put the rinsed leaves in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil, uncovered. Boil gently for about five minutes. Drain the water and allow the leaves to cool.

In a medium bowl combine the beef or lamb, egg, onions, dill, parsley, mint, cumin, rice, 2 Tbsp oil, dried broth mix, and salt. Mix with a large spoon, or your hands, until well combined.

Place four to six vine leaves on your work surface, smooth side down, leaf base facing towards you. Remove the small stem at the base (it’s too tough to digest). Portion about 1 Tbsp of filling near the base end of the leaf. Place the bottom margins of the leaf over the filling, then the left, then the right, then roll the leaf away from you, creating a neat little bundle, as you roll. Place the bundle, seam side down on a baking tray and continue with the remaining leaves and filling. Set aside any broken or damaged leaves.

Layer a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven with any broken or damaged leaves and the reserved dill and parsley stems. Carefully place the dolmas, seam side down, in a neat circular pattern, starting at the edge of the container and moving inwards, stacking one layer on top of another, if necessary.

Drizzle with 2 Tbsp oil, scatter lemon slices on top, and cover with just enough water and/or chicken stock to cover the dolma. Place a pie plate or dinner plate on top of the dolmas to ensure they stay in place (rather than bob to the surface and unfurl). Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 45 minutes or until the rice is just tender.

Lemon Sauce

In a food processor or blender on low speed, or by hand, mix the eggs with the lemon juice and cooking liquid until well combined. Add the cornstarch and chicken broth, mix until completely dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and gently warm it, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not overheat the mixture; otherwise the egg may curdle.

Serve the dolmas with the warmed sauce. Garnish with pan-seared lemon slices, if desired.

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