Homemade dolmas and a chilli cauli side dish

Have you ever tried dolmas (dolmades) before? They’re the stuffed grape vine leaves that you normally get in a tin, and they originate from the large area in the Middle East that borders the Mediterranean sea. Anyway… they’re pretty damn delicious (if not a little greasy), or at least that’s what I thought before I tried making them myself.
Let me just start by saying that as much as I love to try and make things myself where possible, I am fully aware that some things are just better when they are prepared commercially (puff pastry comes to mind), while some fiddly, time-consuming things just aren’t worth the hassle of making yourself (stuffed pasta is almost there… but not quite – depending on the filling). Dolmas DO NOT fall into either of these categories!! Homemade dolma are a revelation: the taste, texture and overall amazingness of them has no comparison.
I used this recipe from the Kitchn website as a guide, and substituted or omitted depending on what I had in the cupboard. Thankfully I was able to hunt down some lovely fresh vine leaves (the owners of the grape vine will never miss a few leaves, right?!)… And I think these were a major factor in the difference in flavour and texture. I also referred to my favourite Greek cookbook for the cooking method. The wonderful Maria Benardis recommends steaming the dolma on a layer of finely cut potato to stop the leaves from sticking to the base of the pot if the cooking water runs out – this is pure genius!! Don’t you just love handy, sensible little tips like that? Not to mention, the potato was perfectly steamed and flavored by the end of the cooking process – just perfect for snacking on while waiting for the dolma to cool.
I served my dolma with a very tasty and easy cauliflower recipe from Alice Hart’s Vegetarian book. Not because I particularly like cauliflower with dolma, nor is it a traditional pairing (as far as I know), but I just happened to have one in the fridge.

Charred cauliflower with almonds and chilli

1 cauliflower (cut into smallish florets)
1 red chilli (depending on how much you like hot food you might like to remove the seeds)
100gm almonds (chopped)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic (sliced thinly)
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry the cauliflower for 5 minutes or so until you get some nicely charred edges. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan, and cook for two minutes. Now add the chilli, almonds, cumin seeds and garlic and turn the heat up to medium. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring every now and then. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped parsley.

Hello 2015!

Happy New Year blog readers! I’m pretty excited to be starting a new year, it always seems like an opportunity to try something I haven’t done before… And – cue drum roll – that’s why this month I’m trying veganism. I know, I know, it’s kind of left field, but please bare with me – it’s just for the month of January.

I happened across the idea on the Cate in the Kitchen blog. It’s called ‘Veganuary’ and its a bit of a challenge and a way to raise awareness about the benefits of a vegan diet for personal health and for the wider environment. After three weeks of Christmas excess and overindulgence a little ‘considered’ eating seems like a very positive thing.

It’s only day three for me, but so far I’ve already tried making a few new things (socca, vegan carrot scones) and have tried (and eaten all of) something I’ve never really liked in the past (eggplant). So while I don’t think I’d choose to be a vegan permanently, I really like the way it’s challenging me to eat differently. I’ve also had more opportunities to eat fresh food from the garden, having a way to use up our current glut of kale and carrots is a bonus!!

This was last night’s dinner – Japanese Miso grilled eggplant on brown rice… Yum, so good!

Miso eggplant