One of my favourite traditional dishes is japrak (dolma). It is prepared in spring when nature is so generous with greens. Japraks (dolmas) are cooked in all Balkan countries, Middle East and Central Asia. They’re basically vine leaves stuffed with greens and rice. Many recipes call for meat, but I prefer them without.
I’m pretty sure japraks bring a lot of memories to all of my Albanian readers and will make curious the others.
I’m sharing with you my family recipe of japrak with just a small change. I added a little bit of ground cumin and powdered garlic for flavour. Japraks seem difficult to prepare, but believe me, they aren’t. They just require time and patience, but the result is so rewarding. They’re perfect with some yoghurt or Albanian cold yoghurt soup, for which I will have a dedicated post soon.
- Around 30-40 vine leaves
- 500 g spring onions
- 600 g mixed greens (I had spinach, sorrel, and some other wild greens, but I don’t know how they are called in English)
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 1 bunch of dill
- 1-2 bunches of mint (same size as the bunch of parsley)
- 4 tbs olive oil
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp powdered garlic
- 1 cup rice
- 1 cup water
- Water to cook the vine leaves
- Start by cleaning all the greens, vine leaves and the green onions.
- Chop the green onions and cook with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat until tender (around 10-15 minutes).
- Meanwhile chop all the greens apart from the spices and add them to the onion mixture.
- Cook them few minutes (5-10) until they have lost the volume and most of the water they release has been absorbed.
- While the greens are cooking add some water in a big pan and bring to a boil.
- Once it reaches the boiling point add the vine leaves and cook them for 1-2 minutes, until they turn from bright green to dark green and start wilting a little.
- Remove from the boiling water and let sit for few minutes to cool.
- Meanwhile, add the rice to the onion and greens mixture and mix it well.
- Add the chopped spices, olive oil, salt, pepper, powdered garlic and cumin and mix again.
- Remove the mixture from the oven and let it aside to cool slightly.
- Now prepare the pan, where you will cook the japraks, by adding a layer of vine leaves covering the bottom.
- Carefully unwrap the vine leaves and start folding the japraks.
- The shiny side of leaves should always be on the back. Be careful to alter the amount of mixture depending on the size of the leaf. Fold leaves carefully over the mixture and put each japrak in the pan.
- Make as many stuffed vine leaves as the rice mixture will make adding them to the saucepan side by side, until the bottom is covered, then start another layer on top.
- Once you’ve finished folding the leaves add a cup of boiling water and cook them over medium heat. Don’t forget to place a heavy plate on top of japraks, so they keep their shape while cooking. Let them simmer with the lead on until they’ve absorbed all the water.
- Enjoy warm or cold with a drizzle of olive oil on top and some yoghurt.
Note: 1 cup – a standard cup of 240 ml