My family and I just returned from a trip to Istanbul. We absolutely loved the city – it has such a rich and magnificent history (the museums are breathtakingly impressive), the people are friendly and helpful and the food was very varied and absolutely delicious. We have been back for just a couple of days and already I am missing Turkish food. Prior to this trip, I had just tasted Turkish dishes at restaurants in the US and so this cuisine was not entirely new to me; but the variety of the dishes in Istanbul was quite a surprise to all of us. Of course, there were the usual Doner Kebabs (everywhere in Istanbul are food stalls that sell Doner Kebabs or what in the US have come to be called Gyro sandwiches) but then there were entirely new dishes that I had never tasted before; e.g. Testy Kebabs (a kind of meat and vegetable stew that gets made in sealed earthenware pots that are broken at the serving table by the waiter and then served while it is still piping hot), or Kumpir (overloaded baked potatoes that are served with a variety of toppings like olives, sausages, potato salad, chopped pickles, cole slaw, etc..), grilled seafood, Iskander Kebabs, lamb shank and Dolma. I especially loved the Dolma that we had for dinner at an old restaurant called Haci Abdullah (which was originally established during the Ottoman reign in 1888, Here’s a link to their website – http://haciabdullah.com.tr/en/). The Mixed Dolma at this restaurant comprised of rice stuffed Grape leaves, Zucchini, Cabbage, Bell Peppers and Eggplant. The rice was infused with a delicate mint flavor and lots of good quality olive oil. So today I tried to replicate the magic of Haci Abdullah’s dolma and I added a little bit of Lamb Merguez sausage to give the rice an added layer of flavor.
1. Two large thick Zucchini (thick ones are needed so it’s easy to scoop the insides out).
2. ½ cup of rice.
3. 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4. Salt and pepper to taste
5. 2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts
6. 2 tablespoons of Golden raisins
7. 8-10 leaves of mint (or 2 teaspoons of dried mint)
8. One yellow or red bell Pepper
9. 2-3 lamb merguez sausage
10. 2-3 shallots
11. 2 cups of chicken stock
1. In a large pot add 1.5 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil and heat on low heat.
2. While the oil is getting heated, chop the sausage in small pieces.
3. Add the chopped sausage to the hot olive oil and cook the sausage pieces.
4. While the sausage is getting cooked, peel and thinly slice the shallots.
6. Add the sliced shallot pieces to the oil and cook for a minute or so (till they turn translucent).
7. Add the rice to the oil and mix everything together so that the oil coats all the sides of the rice grains.
8. Add one cup of water, salt, pepper and mint leaves to the pot and mix thoroughly.
9. Cover the pot with a tight lid and let the rice get cooked on low heat. The rice needs to be cooked only to al dente level because it will get completely cooked when it is stuffed in the vegetables.
10. While the rice is getting cooked, start preparing the vegetables that will be stuffed with the rice. Chop the Zucchini in pieces about 2-3 inches long and using a sharp knife, cut out the inside of the Zucchini pieces so that they look like hollowed out cylinders.
13. When the cooked rice is cooled, stuff the vegetables with it and pack it in tightly.
14. In a large wide pot, add the chicken stock and the remaining amount of ½ tablespoon olive oil and heat on low heat.
15. Gently stand the stuffed vegetables in the warm stock and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.
16. Turn the heat off and gently take the stuffed vegetable out and place on a serving dish – you can serve the dolma hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!