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  • Stuffed Vine Leaves With Sour Cherries

    Vine leaves are the most widely used type of leaves in Turkish cuisine for both meat and olive oil sarmas. Developed from a recipe from the Ottoman period, vine leaves stuffed with sour cherries are a flavor from İstanbul that combines sweet and sour flavors with the aromas of cinnamon, plenty of pine nuts and currants. Today, lemon slices have replaced the sourness of sour cherries. Stuffed grape leaves in olive oil are cooked using different spices in every region and every home, sometimes sweet and sometimes slightly bitter, but always with a sour touch.

    Gluten-FreeVeganPlant BasedDairy-Free
    Serves 6
    • ½ lemon, juice
    • 125 g Tokat narince grape leaves, fresh
    • 150 g white rice
    • 100 ml olive oil
    • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
    • 15 g pinenuts
    • 25 ml sour cherry juice
    • 100 ml water
    • 15 g small currants, cleaned and rinsed
    • ½ teaspoon salt 
    • ½ teaspoon sugar
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon allspice
    • 3-4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
    • 2-3 sprigs dill, finely chopped 
    • 400 g sour cherries (200 g pitted and the remaining crushed to produce 100 ml drained sour cherry juice).
    1. Bring 500 ml water and lemon juice to the boil in a large saucepan.
    2. Blanch the vine leaves in the boiling water for 2 minutes, briefly plunge them into cold water and drain.
    3. Gently rinse the rice in sufficient water 3-4 times in a bowl or until the water runs clear to remove the starch. Leave the rice to soak in the final water for 15-20 minutes and drain.
    4. Sauté the onions and pine nuts in 75 ml olive oil until the onions are golden and caramelized.
    5. Add the rice and continue to sauté for 3-4 more minutes. Add 25 ml sour cherry juice and 25 ml water and stir.
    6. Cover the saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 7-8 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
    7. Add the currants, salt, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, parsley and dill to the partially cooked rice and mix.
    8. Place a few large veined grape leaves as well as the cleaned stems of the grape leaves on the bottom of a large saucepan.
    9. Place the vine leaves on a flat surface one by one with vein side of the leaves facing up.
    10. Using a knife, cut and discard the stems and veins. Place a teaspoon of the stuffing in the middle of each leaf. Carefully fold in the sides and roll to obtain a cylinder about 7-8 cm long and 1.5-2 cm wide.
    11. One by one, arrange these in the bottom of the saucepan and scatter the sour cherries over the stuffed vine leaves.
    12. Place a small plate on top to prevent the leaves from opening. Add the remaining water, sour cherry juice and olive oil and cover with a lid.
    13. Bring to the boil for 1 minute, then simmer over a low heat for about 35-40 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
    14. Once the stuffed vine leaves have cooled, serve with the sour cherries.
    Chef's Note

    Tokat’s delicate vine leaves are preferred for sarmas because they are thin and have no veins. The narince leaf from Erbaa was awarded the Geographical Indication tag. When making sarmas with brined vine leaves, these should be soaked in plenty of hot water overnight. The next day, wash the leaves in fresh water twice and drain or they will be too salty. When serving drizzle olive oil over the sarmas.