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Sour Cherry Dolmades


This is one of my favourite recipes from working on the Aegean coast of Turkey. It uses a very Turkish ingredient, red pepper paste or salca as it’s called in Turkish. You can find it at Middle Eastern grocers.




50 -60 grape leaves,

1/3 cup, plus 2 tbs. extra virgin Greek olive oil

4 large onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup red lentils, soaked in water

1/2 cup bulgur, soaked in water

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tsp. red pepper paste

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint

4 large, firm, ripe tomatoes, grated

1/4 cup dried sour cherries, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4-5 cups water

Strained fresh juice of 2 lemons


Drain and rinse the brined grape leaves. You will need to cut the stalks off them,  if they are still attached, as they are fibrous and wont break down as you cook them.


In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, the one-third cup of olive oil and cook the onions until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Add the lentils and bulgur and stir coating everything in oil. Then add your red pepper paste. Fry this until it is distributed through the mixture evenly. Take off the heat and add your grated tomato, sour cherries and herbs, pomegranate molasses and a splash more olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.


Separate the grape leaves that are too small or too irregular to roll. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the bottom of a medium-size sauce pan and layer 4-5 of the irregular leaves over the oil.

Lay the leaves vein-side up in rows on a work surface. Snip off the tough stems. Place one teaspoon of the mixture in center, bottom of leaf. Fold the left and right sides over the filling and roll up, gently but tightly, from bottom to top. Place seamside down in the pot so it doesn't unravel. Repeat with remaining stuffing and leaves. Pour over remaining olive oil, some lemon juice and enough water to cover the leaves. Weigh the leaves down with a plate. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for about 35 minutes, or until leaves and stuffing is tender. Serve warm or cold.

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