Baked and Ready to Eat!
The name of this dish literally means “stuffed thing” in Turkish, and is another introduction to Bosnia & Herzegovina (B & H) during Ottoman times (1463-1878). However, it became so popular and widespread that many people-rich and poor, Muslim and non-Muslim-started to regularly prepare it, and it is definitely regarded as a staple dish of modern B & H cuisine. Dolma is found from the Balkans to Turkey and the Caucasus to Central Asia, with many local variations following the same principle. Most regions have both meat (more common) and vegetarian dolma (often called “false dolma”). B & H dolma is characterised by raw mixture being stuffed directly into the vegetables (many other versions fry it first), and by a less liberal use of herbs and spices compared to some other variations (most traditional recipes call for only parsley leaf, garlic and ground black pepper). As well as boiling our dolma, we also bake it. This is a very healthy, hearty dish that is perfect on a cold evening.
The stuffing mixture is enough for the following:
1 medium sized aubergine, 2-3 medium-large red tomatoes, 3-4 green “dolma” peppers. You can use just one or two of the three vegetables if you don’t like all of them.
It is very important that you use the correct variety of pepper for this dish (see pictures). You should be able to buy dolma peppers from any good Turkish/Middle Eastern food shops that have a fruit and vegetable section.
1 tablespoon olive oil (or any other cooking oil)
1 handful finely chopped parsley leaf, to garnish
For the stuffing
500g minced beef or lamb, or a mixture of the two (just NOT extra lean mince)
150g white rice (risotto rice is the best but equally basmati or jasmine can work well)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped or grated
1 large handful parsley leaf, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vegeta (substitute with 1.5 tsp salt if not available)
Ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
A little room temperature water (about 75ml)
For the sauce
150 ml. water
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon vegeta and a little salt (use just salt if vegeta is not available)
1) Slice the aubergine in half crossways and hollow the both out but be careful not to pierce the bottom so it resembles a cup. Cut off the rounded ends so both halves can stand firmly upright. Sprinkle a good amount of salt inside the cavities of the aubergines and leave to one side while you prepare all the other ingredients. The salt will remove the bitter juices.
2) Using a sharp knife, make a circular cut on the top of each tomato and push upwards to remove. Hollow out the insides and discard the pulp. Do the same with the peppers, being careful to get rid of all the seeds.
3) Make the stuffing. Put the meat and rice in a mixing bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well in one direction. Keep mixing for at least a few minutes, turning the mixture over periodically to ensure even mixing.
4) Wash the aubergines in water and stuff the vegetables with the stuffing mixture, firming it with your fingers. Leave a 1cm gap from the top as the filling will expand.
5) Mix together the sauce ingredients in a bowl, ensuring that the flour is completely dissolved. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/180 fan. Place the vegetables in a baking tray; squashing them together is fine. Pour in the sauce and carefully tilt the tray to ensure even coverage. Drizzle the olive oil over the top, cover with foil and bake for around 1 hour. *
Ready to bake! I used chicken fat-spread lightly on top of each vegetable-instead of oil
6) Remove the foil and bake for around 30 more minutes, or until the vegetables have got a nice brown colour. Check the seasoning of the sauce. Serve with boiled rice, mashed potato or thick crusty bread along with some sour cream on the side. Sprinkle over the parsley leaf for the garnish and enjoy!
*To boil: Stack the vegetables closely together in a saucepan. Pour in the sauce, cover and bring to the boil before reducing the heat to a simmer for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Tips and Variations
- While not traditional in the B & H version, do experiment with herbs and spices such as mint, cumin and cinnamon in the stuffing mixture.
- Try using chicken fat or lard instead of oil