One of the staples of traditional Turkish cuisine, sarma consists of a filling that is snugly surrounded by leaves or leafy vegetables. There are numerous versions of this dish but the mixture typically combines ingredients such as minced meat, rice or bulgur, various herbs, seasonings, red pepper, paprika, ground sumac, or tomato sauce, while the typical wrapping usually includes vine, cabbage, or sauerkraut leaves, or a variety of leafy vegetables such as collard greens and swiss chard.
Having its roots in the Ottoman Empire, sarma is also traditionally consumed in the Balkans, the countries of Central Europe, the South Caucasus, and the Middle East. Although it is commonly enjoyed as a filling lunch or dinner (typically during the winter season), sarma is often prepared on special occasions and holidays.
The dish is usually accompanied by plain yogurt.
- 30 grape vine leaves
- 350g (12.3 oz) ground lamb or beef
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 115g (4 oz) long-grain rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 bunch fresh dill and flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt and ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup (240 ml) water to cook the stuffed wine leaves
- 6 tbsp plain yogurt to serve
In a bowl, mix the ground meat with the onions, rice, spices, and herbs. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and knead thoroughly.
Place a vine leaf onto a working surface and add some filling in the center. Cover the filling with the leaf, folding in the sides, and roll tightly into a log. Do not overfill the leaves as the filling can ooze out. Layer the rolled logs tightly in a wide and deep pan, seam side facing down.
Combine the water with the remaining olive oil and pour over the rolls. Add more water if needed, to ensure that the top layer of the vine leaf rolls is covered.
Cover the sarmas with a heavy plate and cook over a moderate flame until it starts to boil. Then, lower the heat, and cook for about 40 minutes, until cooked through.
Serve hot, with a spoon of yogurt and some crunchy bread on the side.