Summer vine leaves with tomatoes, pine nuts & dill

Summer vine leaves with tomatoes, pine nuts & dill

New Feast
Alan Benson

Versions of stuffed vine leaves can be found all around the Middle East and Mediterranean. This vegetarian version comes from Turkey (where they are known as ‘sarma’). They are especially popular in the summer, when the appetite craves lighter, meat-free meals. Best served at room temperature, they are a stalwart of the mezze table or can even be eaten as a pre-dinner canape.


Quantity Ingredient
750g jar preserved vine leaves
or 500g fresh vine leaves
100ml olive oil
40g pine nuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 level teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 level teaspoon dried mint
35g currants
250g short-grain rice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
250ml Vegetable stock
1 medium vine-ripened tomato, grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 lemon, sliced
200ml hot water
1 lemon, juiced


  1. If using preserved vine leaves, soak them for 10 minutes in plenty of cold water, then rinse and pat them dry. Fresh vine leaves should be washed, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds and then refreshed in cold water.
  2. To make the filling, heat half the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Saute the pine nuts for a few minutes over a medium heat until golden brown. Add the onion and saute until softened, then add the spices, dried mint, currants and rice and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and add half the vegetable stock to the pan. Cook over a low heat, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining stock and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until all the stock has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated tomato and fresh herbs.
  3. Line the bottom of a heavy-based saucepan or flame-proof casserole with a few vine leaves and slices of lemon. Arrange the remaining leaves over a work surface, vein-side up, and cut away the stems. Place a spoonful of the filling across the base of the leaf. Roll it over once, then fold in the sides and continue to roll it into a neat sausage shape. The sarmas should be around the size of your little finger – don’t stuff them too tightly or they will burst during the cooking. Continue stuffing and rolling until all the filling has been used.
  4. Pack the stuffed vine leaves into the casserole dish, layering them with more lemon slices, then pour in the hot water, lemon juice and remaining oil. Sit a small plate on top of the sarmas to keep them submerged in the liquid, then simmer gently, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes. Check whether the sarmas are ready: if there is still liquid in the dish, return to the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes, then check again.
  5. Leave the sarmas to cool in the casserole dish. When ready to serve, turn them out onto a large platter.
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