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Monday, December 16, 2013

Sărmăluțe în viță de vie (Romanian stuffed grape leaves)

The traditional Romanian stuffed grape leaves at their best, in their Moldavian version: smaller than the ones made in the other regions of the country, wine-boiled, with a higher vegetable to meat ratio and most importantly, my mom's recipe. :)
They are usually called "sarmale" (from the Turkish "sarma" which means the same thing, usually called "dolmades" in English literature), but sărmăluțe is also widely used as a diminutive form of the noun, even officially (I mean in restaurants' menus and all). 

I'm not usually a fan of traditional, peasant-style Romanian food, as it tends to be too heavy for my taste, but my mom's version is obviously great and the best (everyone says that about their moms, I know) :P
As a bonus, as if they could possibly taste any better, these were the first thing we made in my new Emile Henry tagine dish, and I swear they really taste different (better) when cooked in a clay pot compared to how they taste when made in other dishes. I actually experimented with food by putting the same stuff in two different dishes and cooking it and then comparing: always, the one made in ceramic tasted better.
Of course, traditionally, this recipe isn't made in a tagine and it's delicious without one too, but the Romanian peasants do cook sarmale in their clay pots, so if a tagine is the only clay cooking dish you have on hand, give it a go. You won't be straying too far from the authentic version. ;)
Returning to the recipe, there you have it: written instructions to the best sărmăluțe in Romania. :)

Last year: Wood ear mushroom salad (Chinese) (raw vegan).
Two years ago: Bulgur pilaf with garlic.
Three years ago: Lebkuchen (German gingerbread) and Ragout with tarragon and white wine sauce (German).

  • 600 g yellow onions
  • 50 ml sunflower oil
  • 300 g carrot
  • 25 g curly leaf parsley (one big bunch)
  • 25 g flat leaf parsley (one big bunch)
  • 1 kg ground meat (pork and beef, mixed)
  • 100 g round-grained rice (like the one used for milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-5 tablespoons liquid tomato juice/paste (if yours is thicker use some water to dillute, 
  • the final composition must be quite fluid or the sarmalute will be too hard)
  • 500 g shredded salt-pickled cabbage (sauerkraut)
  • 300 g salt-brine preserved grape leaves
  • about 750 ml dry red wine (depending on your pot)

Chop up the onion. Put it in a large frying pan with the oil:

Fry it on low heat until tender and slightly golden. Grate the carrot and put it on top of the onion. Remove from the heat:

Mix well:

Transfer to a large bowl (if there's no more room in the frying pan), add the chopped fresh herbs and the rice:

Mix well, also add the tomato paste, the lightly beaten eggs and the ground meat and mix until even:

Prepare you pot(s). Make a bed from half of the pickled cabbage on the bottom. Start stuffing the grape leaves by putting about 1 - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of meat mixture in their center then rolling them and tucking in their loose ends. As the sarmalute are rolled and filled, put them in the pot, on top of the cabbage bed:

Continue until all the spots are filled, then arrange the next ones in a second layer on top of the first one. Keep going until you finish the composition (and, probably, the grape leaves).

Arrange the other half of the cabbage quantity on top of the sarmalute and transfer the dish on a stove (or the oven if you prefer). Pour the wine so that it covers the sarmalute and goes 1 cm higher than them:

Cover and let them cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes - 2 hours, on medium heat.

Any leftover liquid (wine and juices) will be served with the sarmalute, and so will the shredded cabbage.
After they're done, transfer to serving plates (about 7-8 for each serving) and dig in! :)

P.S: Traditionally they're served with polenta or bread (but preferably polenta) and 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream per serving.

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