Every time I go home to visit my parents, my mum makes dolma. It definitely cracks my top 5 list for homecooked meals, and although it’s not the quickest meal (there’s that hour of simmering), it’s simple and filling and awesome. Also, it makes your whole house smell good while it’s cooking.
I went grocery shopping on Friday and found some beautiful green peppers the size of softballs. If that wasn’t an invitation to make dolma, I don’t know what it was.
Dolma (Stuffed Peppers)
1 lb. of ground beef (I used sirloin)
1/2 tsp allspice (or substitute 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp black pepper)
1 tsp basil
1/3 cup white rice (regular long grain rice, not Minute Rice)
3-5 large green peppers
1/3 cup chopped onion
splash of lemon juice (about 2 tbsp)
2 cans of tomato soup
2 1/2 cans of water
splash of lemon juice
pepper and salt to taste
splash of Diet Coke (optional)
Boil 2/3 cup of water in a small pot. Add 1/3 cup of rice, reduce heat, and cook covered for 15-20 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, slice the tops off the green peppers, and carefully hollow out each pepper, discarding the seeds. Chop the top off one or two of the peppers (yields about 1/3 cup chopped peppers) and snack on the rest while you cook.
When all of the water has absorbed into the rice (check this after 15 minutes, but it may take as long as 20), remove it from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. Let it cool for a few moments. Do not rinse the rice.
Mix the beef, rice, spices, onions, lemon juice, and peppers in a large bowl. I didn’t have any allspice, so I used the alternate mixture listed above. My mom uses allspice in hers. She also doesn’t use onions, but I feel like they’re a great addition. Knead the mixture with your hands until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
Fill the green peppers with the beef mixture. Lightly stuff it in – don’t pack it down, it’s dense enough already. If you’re not keen on green peppers (I didn’t really like them when I was small) or if you’re short on space in the pot (which happened to me this time because those peppers were gigantic), you can roll the meat into balls and wrap it in foil.
Arrange the peppers and/or foil balls in a large pot. Ideally, you’ll be able to tuck them in very snugly. I did a little practice run with empty peppers, and figured out that with the pot I wanted to use, I could fit three peppers and two foil balls.
Pour two cans of tomato soup and two and a half cans of water into the pot. Add a splash of lemon juice and a little bit of pepper and salt. I happened to be drinking Diet Coke when I made this, and on a complete whim, poured a little bit into the sauce. It may or may not have an effect on the flavor, and it’s obviously optional.
Cover the pot and turn the burner to high. When the mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook covered for about 1 hour. Serve atop a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, and ladle extra sauce over top as desired.
Don’t feel limited to green peppers and aluminum foil balls! You can stuff eggplants, tomatoes, other peppers – whatever you like. You can also substitute ground lamb for the ground beef. The above recipe is based on what my mum makes, which in turn is based on my grandma’s recipe.
Interesting tidbit: depending on where you’re from, this may be called something completely different. This is what my (Armenian) family calls dolma. The stuffed grape leaves that some people call dolma? We call those sarma.
I think it’s delicious no matter what it’s called.