Friday, 14 October 2016

RECIPE: Mumbai vada pav with chutneys, and a fried egg

vada pav, with a fried egg!
I LOVE EGGS. The world loves eggs. Instagram especially loves eggs - how can anyone resist a bit of golden #yolkporn? It's hard, so most of us can't. 

If you were to ask my favourite standalone ingredient ever, I may well say the humble egg; possibly the single most versatile food item that has ever existed. All hail its simplicity and mighty existence, and just how well it goes with tapenade.

To celebrate British Egg Week taking place from 10th - 17th October, the lovely people from British Lion Eggs have collaborated with Farang London chef Seb Holmes, to come up with some tasty Thai street food-inspired recipes, all celebrating this year's theme of #putaneggonit. Think of Beyonce's 'if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it', but replace ring, with egg. It's not a bad culinary motto by which to live.

The idea is to encourage people to eat eggs in more unusual ways, by putting an egg on dishes they wouldn't normally think to try. It if was up to me, I'd put an egg on almost everything. Maybe even my cereal.

They've then asked me to take inspiration from Seb's collection of egg recipes, and come up with my own street food-inspired concoction that would work great with eggs. Now, I've eaten a heck of a lot of street food on my travels, and when I was presented with this challenge, one immediately popped into my head - Mumbai's world-famous vada pav

I'd arrived in Mumbai having already heard about vada pav (here's more about my first visit to Mumbai, and then another visit about a week later). They're sometimes referred to as the city's take on a vegetarian burger; seeing as it's fast food, cheap, and a filling betwixt two buns, that's sort of accurate. But let me tell you, I'd have these over a burger most days.

the vada pav I had in Mumbai - so very excellent
They are spicy potato balls deep fried in gram flour (vada), with a lick of hot garlic green chutney, all between two halves of a soft bun (pav). 

They involve bread, they're salty and they're spicy - all perfect pairings for a lovely fried egg. In fact, when I first ate these in their home city, my immediate thought was 'these are fabulous, but they could do with a little lubrication'. 

Allow me to introduce that lubrication via the medium of a runny yolk.

And so, I present to you, my recipe for vada pav with the glorious addition of a fried egg. Let me tell you, this is truly a thing of beauty. Please everyone, make it.

Mumbai's vada pav sandwich, with chutneys and a fried egg

Makes six vada pavs

For the green chutney

Mint leaves, small bunch
Coriander, small bunch (including stalks)
1-2 green chillies, roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground almonds
Juice from 1/2 lemon

For the red chutney

3 tbsp desiccated coconut, dry roasted
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1-2 tsp chilli powder

For the vada fillings

3 potatoes, boiled and mashed until smooth
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
3 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 tsp asafoetida
Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including stalks)

For the batter and frying

150g gram (chickpea) flour
1/4 tsp turmeric
80ml warm water
Sunflower oil

To serve

Six small and soft white rolls
Butter (optional)
Six green finger chillies, deep-fried
Six eggs, fried

First make your chutneys. For the green, combine the mint, coriander, chillies and ground almonds, add some of the lemon juice, and blitz. Keep adding lemon juice until you have a consistency that is spreadable - you don't want it too wet. You might not end up using all the lemon juice. Add salt to taste.

For the red chutney, ensure the coconut gets a nice colour from the dry toasting, then combine with the garlic, chilli powder, and a pinch of salt, and pound using a pestle and mortar. Add a splash of water if needed to loosen the mixture slightly. You should end up with a dry and crumbly chutney. Set both the chutneys aside. 

making the green and red chutney

To make the vada fillings, grate the garlic and ginger. Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium to high heat. When it's hot enough for a mustard seed to sizzle in it, add the rest of the mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the mustard seeds start popping vigorously, reduce the heat to low to medium, and add the ginger, garlic and chillies. Cook for one minute, then add the turmeric and cook for another minute.

Now add the mashed potato and fresh coriander, fully combine, and cook for another minute. Add salt to taste. Remove the mashed potato from the pan and set aside to cool.

flavouring the vada mashed potato

Weigh the total amount of potato you have, and divide this number by six so you know how much each portion should weigh - mine were about 75g each. Measure out one portion and roll into a ball with your hands. Do this for all six portions, and set aside.

To create the batter for frying the balls, combine the gram flour with the turmeric and a pinch of salt. Add the water a little at a time, continually mixing with a whisk, until you have a smooth and fairly thick batter. Set aside.

Fill a heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough sunflower oil to reach half way up the vada balls. Heat on medium to high. To test if the oil is hot enough to fry the vada balls, add a little batter and if it sizzles and cooks to a golden colour, then it's ready.

First drop in the six finger chillies for serving. When they've cooked and blistered, remove and let them rest on kitchen paper.

Coat each ball in the batter, and gently drop into the hot oil. Turn the ball around in the oil until the whole thing is cooked and golden in colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on kitchen paper. Repeat for all the vada balls.

To serve, slice each soft roll in half and butter, if desired. Smear on some green chutney, and add a vada ball. In the meantime, fry an egg how you like it (runny yolk all the way), and add on top of the vada ball. Sprinkle on some of the dry red chutney, serve with a deep-fried chilli, and devour!

making and frying the vada balls

This is a sponsored post in partnership with British Egg Week, as part of their #PutAnEggOnIt campaign, to encourage people to eat eggs in more unusual ways. I hope you get to try this recipe - it's GOOD. 

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Thursday, 29 September 2016

CHINA: 6 must-eat dishes from Xi'an's Muslim quarter

What to eat in Xi'an's Muslim Quarter

braising sheep hooves in Xi'an, China
China's ancient capital of Xi'an (here's my post on how to spend a couple of days in Xi'an) once marked the terminus of the Silk Road. The trading opportunities drew people from across Asia, and migrants became an integral part of the city.

Fast forward to today and the result is an exciting melting pot of cultures and religion, which also happens to be the failsafe formula for great food - check out my culinary adventures in Penang in Malaysia for another good example of this.

In Xi'an's Muslim quarter, you'll find sights familiar to both Chinese and Middle Eastern culture. 

Hawkers roast walnuts, carve watermelon, and pick out the seeds from giant sunflower heads. Perspiring cooks stir-fry cubes of spiced lamb in roaring woks set over screaming-hot coal ovens. Steamed mutton and beef dumplings stacked high in bamboo baskets sit alongside vendors selling a kaleidoscope of fresh fruit, and little old ladies frying potatoes for optimal walk-and-eat snackage.

It does get busy; Xi'an as a whole sees a lot of tourists. Mostly Chinese. But it's fun to get swept along with the hungry crowds, and if that's your thing, get there for around 7.30pm. If you prefer to avoid the masses, and for easier photo opportunities, head over in the afternoon or early evening. Either way, and regardless of how hungry you are, you won't end up spending much more than around 40 Yuan (£5) to get totally stuffed. 

Below are a few pointers on what to eat in Xi'an's Muslim Quarter. As ever, it's by no means an exhaustive list, but it's certainly no bad place to start.

scenes from Xian's Muslim quarter, China

1) Rou jia mo - steam and griddled bread sandwiches with lamb or beef

These aren't exclusive to Xi'an - the Chinese are pretty good at stuffed sandwiches, where they're called rou jia bing across the rest of the country. But the local dialect in these parts refer to them as rou jia mo, and you won't be finding any pork in them.

Instead, the bing are stuffed with chopped beef brisket, a bit like corned beef, but more moist. The meat is braised and cured in a vat, then the cook takes a big cleaver to it on a wooden block. The bread is split open, covered with a slick of chilli oil, and stuffed with the beef. Often enjoyed with some sesame cold skin noodles, the two together are great.

2)Pao mo - bread and mutton soup

This bread and mutton soup is found across Xi'an, but especially in the Muslim quarter. 

This was gorgeous - tiny cubes of torn bread, thin rice noodles, chopped greens, braised mutton, and a thick meaty broth, served with pickled garlic and sweet chilli paste. Hugely comforting, full of flavour - it's a signature local dish to seek out when here. And it's only about £1.80.

The way the locals eat it is that they tear the bread into the bowl themselves, then it gets whisked back to the kitchen where the chefs add the rest of the ingredients (see the video below) to make the final soup. 

But my bread was already torn; I suspect it was easier for the lady to do it herself than try to explain what I was supposed to do. Either way, it's lovely stuff.

3) Hammered nut candy

There are two main observations to note with this guy below. Firstly, that's not dough he's stretching. It's in fact warm sugar. Secondly, I watched him for a while, and not once does the sugar touch the spit-covered floor. Skills.

Xi'an is obsessed with nuts, and their sweets reflect that. This guy repeatedly folds and stretches hot sugar across a hook, then the candy gets transferred to a large wooden stump where it's sprinkled with nuts. Guys then go at it with big wooden mallets, pounding the nuts into the warm candy until it hardens , then it's cut into pieces. 

The mallets are pretty noisy and always draw a crowd, as does the sugar-stretching boy. Fun theatre, and a tasty sweet treat.

4) Fried liang fen - green bean starch jelly

I walked past this assuming it was animal based, because we're in China, and the Chinese eat everything, right? Wrong. I mean, the Chinese are pretty good at eating all of the animals, but that doesn't mean they don't love their veggies. And in fact, the whole Muslim Quarter and the city of Xi'an as a whole is a great place for vegetarians, in a country where meat is a symbol of prosperity.

These were cubes of liang fen, a sort of tofu-like jelly made with green bean starch. They were studded with chillies and spring onions, and fried in shallow pans. Outside of Xi'an they're often served cold and coated in a hot chilli Sichuan sauce. But these ones retained both kinds of heat well, and got nice and crispy round the edges. Another great snack to graze on as you walk and scout for the next treat.

5) Persimmon doughnuts

Oh boy, did I love these. I actually had them in a restaurant in Xi'an, rather than the Muslim street food strip, but wherever you go looking for them, make sure you do actually find them.

These are interesting in texture, and have fantastic flavour. Inside they're dense and chewy a bit like Japanese mochi, thanks to an unleavened dough made from dried persimmons. But outside they're fried and crisp. There are apparently lots of varieties available, each with a different filling at the centre. 

But if you don't know the language, and you don't know what options are available, just point to what the person before you ordered. You can't go too far wrong.

6) Skewers

Speaking of the Silk Road, there's a restaurant in South East London called Silk Road, and they're particularly well known for their cumin-crusted lamb skewers. And you'll find exactly these in Xi'an too.

The Chinese as a whole are prolific consumers of things on sticks, be that grilled, fried, simmered, or however else you can think of cooking them. This is particularly prevalent in Xi'an where you'll find grilled lamb or beef shish kebabs on pretty much every street throughout the city; it's almost impossible to return to your room after wandering the streets without honking of meaty coal smoke.

In the Muslim Quarter though, there's more choice. You'll find tiny chunks of fatty lamb coated in chilli oil and dusted in cumin, dried chillies and salt. There's also mutton, beef, lamb's liver, chicken wings, quail's eggs, all of the sausages, all sorts of vegetables, and most other things you could think of.

Sticks go for around 1 Yuan a pop, which is like, 12p. Try to resist spending more than 40p on these supremely tasty skewers, or you'll struggle to find room for everything else. 

How to get to Xi'an

Finnair were the first Western European airline to fly non stop to China; it was Beijing in 1988. They were also the first Western European airline to fly to Xi'an. Another claim is they were the first airline in the world to send SMS messages to customers regarding their flights. Which is fitting, seeing as SMS was invented in Finland.

Their minimum connection time in Helsinki is 35 mins, and they're rather proud of their extremely low statistic of only losing 4 in 1000 pieces of luggage - that's a very good number.

I was lucky enough to experience their fully flat beds in business class, which included some of the best food I've eaten at 30,000 feet. That's thanks to the new culinary collaboration for long-haul business passengers, with world-class chefs Steven Liu from China and Sasu Laukkonen from Finland, launched in April 2016 this year.

Think such Nordic delights as cucumber and dill soup with yoghurt and smoked salmon tarter; pressed beef neck with celeriac puree, herb butter and spring vegetables; Peltolan Blue and Viinitarhuri Finnish cheeses; organic Finnish ice cream by Jymy; and a very healthy stock of the excellent Finnish Napue gin, voted the best gin in the world to have with tonic, according to the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).

Get a couple of those down your neck along with some fine bubbles, and you can start the holiday well before you get there.

aboard a Finnair flight from Helsinki to Chongqing


Note: This trip and the flights was hosted by Finnair. Thank you to everyone involved for a truly wonderful experience. Must get back to China...

All views remain my own, as always.

Related posts
CHINA: How to spend 2 days in China's ancient capital, Xi'an
CHINA: 8 Sichuan dishes to eat in Chongqing

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

SPAIN: the farm to fork journey of a Knorr tomato

Knorr and sustanability - what part are they playing?

We all know, and many of us love Knorr. Their stock cubes remind me of the childhood meals my parents used to cook - it's the only stock brand they would ever use. Today, they're in the top three chosen food brands in Europe. Globally, we're talking 320 million people in 87 countries using their products every day. That's big business. And with big business comes big responsibility. And keeping with the big theme, Knorr have big goals: to source all their raw agricultural ingredients sustainably by 2020.

Sustainability, what does that even mean? "It's a blob term," says Dr. Sally Uren, Chief Executive at Forum for the Future. These guys are a global non-profit NGO working with leading global businesses, including Unilever (Knorr is one of their brands), to address system-wide challenges, particularly in food and energy, with a mission to create a sustainable future.

There's that word again. What Sally means by 'blob term', is that it's a big and somewhat intimidating word, that can in fact be broken down into smaller and more specific conversations, which is a lot easier to digest. I like the sound of that. 

Here are some scary stats: agriculture is responsible for using 70% of the planet's fresh water, and destroying 40% of the planet's ecosystems. Anyone can see that's not sustainable. There it is again; the word is starting to make a bit more sense.

What Unilever did 16 years ago was set up their Sustainable Agriculture Programme. It's purpose was to set a code by which farmers working with Knorr had to comply with, and continually improve upon. The handout I was given below nicely breaks down the blob term into its constituent parts, when it comes to farming:

Unilever's 11 sustainability indicators for agriculture

So what's been the result? As it stands, no less than 20,000 farmers are part of Knorr's sustainable agriculture code. There are even 30 Knorr farms around the world, that have been award Landmark Farm status. This means they demonstrate the best possible standards in all this commendable stuff; they basically get a big fat gold star. And what's particularly cool, is they open up their doors to those interested in popping by and learning about how they do it so well. The farm we visited in Badajoz - La Pinuela - is one of these. All in, 92% of the top 13 vegetables and herbs used in Knorr products today are sustainably sourced. 

Knorr also estimate that operating at the current rate, in line with the holy-grail code above, around 8,258 kg of pesticides - that's about the weight of a blue whale - will be saved from being used by 2017. Not to mention the 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools of fresh water. And doesn't that just make you all warm and fuzzy inside.

But it's all very well Knorr telling people about this; the proof is in the pudding. Or the tomato. Tomato pudding? Either way, they invited me - along with a load of other journalists and bloggers from around Europe - out to Spain to see it for ourselves. We visited La Pinuela farm, the Agraz tomato factory around the corner, and ate a lot of tomatoes and great Spanish food in general.

It was a fab and informative trip, and pandered nicely to the food geek within me. Plus, I got to climb a tomato harvester. You can read about the best bits I learnt and experienced below.

scenes from one of Knorr's Landmark Farms, La Pinuela in Badajoz

From the farm

I love a farm, me. I visited a commercial one in Andalucia a couple of years ago, growing broccoli. These parts of Spain are affectionately known as 'Europe's vegetable gardens', because they produce a significant amount of the continent's fresh produce.

Along with brocolli and tomatoes, corn is another common crop found around here. And crop rotation is key in being a sustainable farmer - it's the best way to maintain soil fertility. Different plants suck up different nutrients; by rotating, you're giving the ground a chance to replenish what the previous crop depleted. It makes sense, and you should apply the same principle to your veg patch.

In terms of pests, the fields were littered with traps to track their numbers, meaning pesticides are only applied when there's a significant enough problem, rather than using it as a prevention tool from the get go.

scenes from one of Knorr's Landmark Farms, La Pinuela in Badajoz
In high season, La Pinuela harvests 20,000 tonnes of tomatoes every day, or 150 fully loaded trucks. That's a lot of tomatoes, from a lot of tomato plants, which need a lot of water. Right? Not necessarily. These farmers use a drip irrigation system, which gives plants just the right amount of water they need to be healthy and tasty, and nothing more. It saves 30% of water compared to just flooding the place.

And then there's the harvester, which I scaled to get some cool tomato shots and a silly tomato selfie. The farmers thankfully turned the thing off first. Or I could have ended up as a paste myself. The machine uses a colour sorter to determine what to pick up off the ground; colours that are unlikely to ripen approaching the end of the season (so still too green), are left to be ploughed back into the field as fertiliser. Clever.

To the factory

The main ingredient in a lot of Knorr's final products is tomato powder. You can see it in the collage below. Looks pretty unnatrual, doesn't it. About as far from a fresh tomato as you could possibly get. Must be full of nasties to end up looking like that.

But actually, it is completely natural. Made from 100% tomato, and nothing else. This was probably the biggest revelation for me on the trip. How do they do that? It's actually pretty obvious, by using one of the oldest preservation techniques known to man - drying.

Agraz factory where tomatoes from La Pinuela are turned into paste and powder - it's very close by


In other words, the water is removed. The process is simple: the tomatoes are washed, peeled, de-seeded, and crushed. They're heated up, where they're reduced to a tomato paste. This is an end product in itself, but some of it is dried further to create tomato powder. The powder is the result of removing 96% of water from tomatoes. 

Within five hours from them being picked, the tomatoes become a paste. Within six hours, they're powder. In a similar way to freezing vegetables in the field, these lovely freshly picked fruit are frozen in time, with all the nutrients and flavour being retained by drying.

Because there is no moisture, microbes can't grow. Which means there's no need to add any preservatives to prolong life. It has been preserved naturally, with nothing else added. 

Around 21kg of fruit is needed to make 1kg of powder, which results in the most tomato-y thing that will ever pass your lips. Check out the video below of freshly dehydrated tomato powder - cool right?

All the unwanted pulp is loaded into trucks and sent back to local farms to feed livestock, so there's no waste. And 85% of the water used to wash the tomatoes is recycled. Even the water extracted from the juice is sent to the water station to be reused.

To the fork

All this tomato-learning and harvester-climbing is hungry work, and Knorr rewarded us duly with consistently fantastic meals. All sixty-ish of us were hosted in local restaurants, cooking us bespoke menus showcasing local produce, created by the top Knorr chefs. 

There were copious amounts of cured meats, excellent cheeses, lovely salads and soups, beautiful bread, casseroles and cod, pork tenderloin and carved ox-loin, pickled pumpkin and cumin carrots, roasted vegetables and fettucini, tomatoes in every which way possible, and quite a lot of wine.

getting creative in the kitchen with Knorr chefs

On our final day, we were invited to try our hand at coming up with our own creations, using some Knorr products such as their tomato powder and dried spices. We were put into teams and presented with a huge table, creaking under its own weight of glorious local produce, from meat and fish to fruit and veg, and we had an hour and a half to rustle something up the rest of us might want to actually eat. That's no mean feat. 

I went straight for the morcilla, pancetta and chorizo, and decided on a simple tomato-based chickpea stew, with these flavoursome meats, and the help of a friend. There were prizes to be won, and whilst I received no trophies for flavour (sob), the picture below did win me a whole leg of Spanish jamon in the food photography category. So I was pretty pleased with that.

my chickpea stew with a Knorr tomato powder base, morcilla, chorizo and pancetta

I learnt loads from this trip, both about sustainability, and Knorr as a brand. I had no idea being good to the planet and their farmers was such a big deal to them. It seems to me, when it comes to huge brands and big business, Knorr are one of the good guys. 

This was a sponsored trip and blog post in partnership with Knorr, in order for me to experience, learn about, and share the sustainable agricultural techniques they are pioneering, as part of their #KnorrFarmtoFork campaign. All views remain my own, as always.

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

RECIPE: Vegetarian vine leaf dolma stuffed with rice and herbs

vine leaf dolma stuffed with rice and herbs

Whenever I'm entertaining a number of people, and I've got the time on my hands, my go to party dish will always be meze. Any sort of meze is a great option for a casual gathering, as they’re often small and can be eaten with fingers. But there is surely no better meze than little plump and juicy dolma. My goodness, I do love a lemony stuffed vine leaf.

I recently knocked a few of these up to take along to a family shindig, and took a load of snaps of the process with the intention of writing this up as a recipe on the blog. But I sort of never got round to it. Then the nice folk from Expedia got in touch, asking if I had a Greek-inspired dish I'd like to share (these guys have some great holidays to Greece going on - my advice is hit the Med in September to November - sublime weather, not too hot and no crowds), and I was like - DO I!

So now I've had the push to finally get this up on the blog. Which is handy, because people asked me for the recipe, and now I have something to send them.

Dolma is a generic word given to any vegetable stuffed with something, usually rice, meat or a combination of both. The most typical and recognisable dolma is that of rice, herbs and spices encased in a vine leaf, rolled up into a short and fat cigar. As well as it being a favourite of Greece, you’ll find this dish in many other countries around the Mediterranean including Turkey, heading east to the Middle East, and also heading back west to Eastern Europe (common in Bulgaria, I hear).

It’s a lot of fun to make and not difficult, if a little time consuming. This recipe is one that I’ve flavoured to my own palate and I think it works well. Follow the technique but feel free to adjust the amount of herbs and spices to your own tastes.

Vegetarian vine leaf dolma stuffed with rice and herbs

vine leaves in brine from TFC
Makes about 40

450g vine leaves pickled in brine (either from a jar or vac-packed)

2 medium onions, diced
A handful of pine nuts, dry toasted 
370g white rice, washed in cold water and drained
Juice from 3 1/2 lemons
Dried mint flakes

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 large bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely (including stalks)
1/2 large bunch of dill, chopped finely (including stalks)
1/2 large bunch fresh mint, leaves chopped finely
120ml good quality olive oil

Tip You'll find the vine leaves in any Mediterranean supermarket. TFC (Turkish Food Store) is a great one and where my vine leaves are from; there are a few dotted about London.

The most time consuming part of this process is finding usable vine leaves from your pack and preparing them. I find the easiest way to tackle this is to put the mass of squashed leaves in a big bowl of warm water and swish them about a bit – this helps to separate them. 

You then need to pick out ones that are not too big (otherwise your dolmas will be huge) and are not torn. Rinse these under warm water to remove the brine, pat dry, break off the stem and repeat until you have a decent pile of leaves ready to use. When you do come across ones that are torn or a funky shape, use these to layer the bottom of a large saucepan. This will be the pan you cook your wrapped dolmas in and the layer of leaves at the bottom will stop them from burning.

layer the base of a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a load of vine leaves - use the torn ones

Use one tablespoon of the olive oil to gently fry the onions on a medium heat in another saucepan, until cooked and softened, but not browned. Add the already toasted pine nuts and saut̩ for a few more minutes. Add the rice and stir constantly for 5-10 minutes until the rice begins to turn translucent. Now add the juice from two and a half lemons and the dry spices Рa good pinch of cinnamon and around three heaped tablespoons of dried mint. At this stage, season with a decent amount of salt and pepper too. Stir thoroughly.

Add 1-2 cups of boiling water and simmer on a low / medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the water has been absorbed. At this stage, your rice will be half cooked.

Turn the heat off and add your finely chopped dill, parsley and mint and stir thoroughly. I blitzed these herbs in a food processor to get them nice and fine. Be sure to include the parsley stalks - it's where most of the flavour can be found. Allow your rice mixture to cool before handling it.

you can either finely chop or blitz your herbs in a food processor
Tip As this whole process is quite lengthy, you can split it up into two parts as I do. In the morning I made my rice mixture and while that was cooking, I separated out the leaves, rinsed them, dried them and kept them in a little pile. Once your rice is cooked and has cooled, be sure to transfer it to the fridge until you're ready to start the assembly of the dolmas which can be done later on in the day.

Now you have the task of hand rolling 40-odd vine leaves, which isn't as daunting as it initially sounds. Get your leaves and rice filling and sit somewhere comfortable like the dining table.

Now you can begin.

Step 1 | Lay a vine leaf flat with the veins facing upwards

Step 2 | Place about a tablespoon of rice mixture in the middle of the leaf and shape into a fat cigar
Step 3 | Fold the bottom of the leaf up to meet the rice, fold in the sides, and then roll up towards the point of the leaf. You should be presented with a short and fat dolma

Repeat until you've used up all of your rice mixture.

Step 4 | As you create the dolmas, place them in your saucepan (that you've already lined with leaves) with the open fold underneath and pack them in tightly so there are no gaps between them, or they'll unfold during cooking. You'll probably end up with two layers.

steps 1 - 4 of hand-rolling the dolma, from top left

You now need to cook (steam) these dolmas until the rice is tender. To do so, add water to the pan until it reaches about half way up the sides of the dolmas, the juice of one lemon, and the rest of the olive oil. Put the lid on and bring the water up to the boil then turn it down so it's gently bubbling. Leave this for 40-50 minutes or so, or until the water is absorbed or the rice is cooked, whichever comes first. Take a dolma from the top and test it to check if the rice is tender. Be sure to keep an eye on the water level - if it runs out and the rice is not yet cooked, just add a bit more.

When cooked, remove them from the pan and allow to cool. Serve with lashings of lemon juice - don't allow anyone to eat one without it. 
As so often is the case with lovely food coming out of the kitchen, expect these to disappear in a fraction of the time it took to make them *heavy sigh*.

It's worth mentioning that Expedia have a nice little blog area that combines two of my most favourite things in life - travel and food. Check out their World on a Plate for the best type of inspiration - international food!

I'm glad Expedia asked me to share this recipe - thanks for the writing push guys!

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