I have a real soft spot for dolmades. I just love the texture of the vine leaves with the lemon-flavoured rice, pinenuts, sweet currants and gentle touches of spice. You get pretty good at wrapping these with a little experience, but it's certainly one of those jobs where it doesn't hurt to enlist any nearby idle hands.
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp currants
4 tbsp pinenuts
450g long-grain rice
5 anchovies, chopped
1 litre quality chicken stock
4 tsp dried mint
50-60 vine leaves, thoroughly rinsed
1 litre hot water
1 tbsp fennel seeds
10 whole allspice berries
1 fresh bay leaf
plain yoghurt, to serve
1. Place a medium pot over a high heat, add 80 millilitres of olive oil, the onion, garlic, currants, pinenuts and a pinch of salt. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the rice, anchovies and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt flakes. Cook while stirring constantly for another minute. Add the juice of two lemons, the chicken stock and dried mint. Bring to the boil and cook for about five minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid - be sure to stir frequently to stop the rice sticking to the pan. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional.
3. Drizzle a little oil into an ovenproof pot (such as a French oven). Lay a vine leaf flat on a clean bench and pile on a heaped tablespoon of rice mix near the stem, roll the stem end over, fold the edges in and roll up like a spring roll - firmly, but not too tight, as the rice will expand - and repeat until the mix runs out. As each vine leaf is rolled, place it in the pot, forming two tightly packed layers - this depends on the size of your pot but ideally you want complete layers.
4. Mix the juice of two lemons, hot water, fennel seeds, allspice, bay leaf, a pinch of salt and the remaining olive oil together and pour into the pot over the dolmathes. Place a circle of baking paper over the vine leaves, and weigh down with a plate large enough to just fit inside the pot. Cover tightly and bake for one hour. Leave to cool at room temperature in the pot before refrigerating - this helps the rice to soak up most of the liquid. Serve at room temperature with plain yoghurt.
Makes 50 to 60
Drink Greek white wine, such as assyrtiko.