Greek Dolmates: Beef (or pork) Rolled in Grape Vine Leaves

I have always loved Greek food. The Greek cuisine is one of my favourites, and dolmates are close to the top of that list. The first time I ate them was about 1982 when Hazel F, a dear friend, came to Edmonton from Red Deer for some kind of work with the University of Alberta. She was travelling with a girl friend and they invited me to join them for dinner at Cosmos (no longer in business. At that time, it was “the place” to go in Edmonton and was located where Overtime Broiler and Taproom now is. We ordered the sampler platter of appetizers and mains. “It was all Greek to me!” (Blush. I couldn’t resist!) I had never had any food flavoured like this before, and I became an immediate fan. I really don’t remember the next time I had Greek food, or even the first time I made dolmates. I know it wasn’t long after that evening, and I know I figured it out myself, over time, through trial and error. Those were the “olden days” before the internet. Now, I would just do a search, read a few recipes, and get the idea. Then, it was a little more labour intensive. In any case, I eventually succeeded, and they are exceedingly easy to make, healthy to eat, and definitely tasty.
I carefully unwrap the leaves from inside of the jar, and then rinse them well in cold water to wash away some of the brine.
I always use fresh, baby dill. Nothing else will do.
Minced garlic and onion, not too much….a kilo of lean beef, rice, and two eggs….
Knead it together…. then set the leaves in a colander and lay each out on a cutting board.
Remove the course vein from each leaf and pull the sides of the leaf together to overlap, and place a meatball size piece of the meat inside of the leaf and wrap the leaf around the meat. You will then have two ends with leaves open. Take the roll into your hand with one open end coming out between your thumb and forfinger as in the photo below to the right.
With your other thumb, tuck the leaves back into the middle of the roll. Turn the roll around, and do it again on the other end. Both ends will be neatly tucked into the middle of the roll as in the photos below.
Sometimes there may not be enough leave to tuck into the roll; just wrap it around and tuck it under the roll if that happens. Snuggle them all in a pot in layers, placing the unusable leaves on the bottom. Cover with water, and gently boil (simmer) for a couple of hours until they are cooked.
  • 1 kilo lean groun beef (or pork, or lamb), not too lean
  • 4-6 large, plump cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 an onion, minced (see the photo)
  • 2 generous tablespoons of fresh dill, minced
  • 3/4 cup of rice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (leaves are salty)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • large jar of grapevine leaves (found in most supermarkets
  1. Unwrap the grapevine leaves and rinse well under cold water; place in a colander and let them drain (don’t rinse all of the flavour our of them, just a good rinse after you have unwrapped them all and layed them in the colander)
  2. Prepare all vegetables and place everything in a large bowl except the grape vine leaves; knead
  3. Wrap the meat in the leaves as per the instructions accompanying the above photos
  4. Cover the bottom of a heavy pot with grape vine leaves (hopefully damaged ones)
  5. Place dolmates seam-side down in a heavy pot close together, and layer
  6. Fill pot with water to just cover the dolmates, and bring the water to a boil
  7. Simmer with lid ajar for two hours, or until cooked
  8. Cool completely; layer into serving dish and cover with liquid from the pot, placing leaves on top for reheating, or freezing
Sometimes I freeze them seperately in ziplock bags, depending upon what I am making them for. Usually I load them into casserole dishes and freeze them until needed. I always serve some immediately, with tzitziki, of course! This time I was making them for our staff “Back to School Party” at the end of August and here they are below in the chaffing dish with the Tzitziki beside them in the leaf shaped dish. I still have some in the freezer. Vanja does not like these, so they will stay there until I am invited out and need to take something. Hopefully, soon!
I know you have heard me go on about how I love our multicultural mosaic, but I cannot express this enough. I haven’t been to Greece, yet. It is definitely on my list. But, I have experienced a great deal of the Greek culture within Canada through our restaurants, my neighbours and friends, and our local Heritage Festival. I am forever grateful. Greek flavours are robust and linger on one’s tongue. I like that!


  1. ozgur says

    dolma is turkish food dolma comes from word
    dol means fill (order)
    dolmak to fill mak means to
    doldurmak to fill something and dolma for food
    what ure trying to cook is sarma dolma
    sarma comes from sar means roll (order) sarmak to roll and sarma for food

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