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Dolma, Mardin-Style

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Dolma, Mardin-Style

Serves 10 as Main Dish.

Mardin is a city in Southeast Turkey very close to the northeastern border of Syria, populated mostly by Arabs, Kurds and Assyrian Christians. The cuisine is heavily meat-based (an Arab friend from there said if you gave his mother a pile of vegetables but there was no meat there, she'd have no idea what to do!). I call this "Mardin Style" because I learned it from a friend from that area but really this approach is fairly common throughout the area. One thing that sets these dolma apart from others is that they use chopped meat, not ground. This makes a huge difference in texture.

This can be made with fresh or dried peppers and eggplants. If using dry, bring water to a boil, add the peppers and eggplants (remove from string first!) turn off heat and wait 5 minutes or so. Retain water for cooking. Turkish stuffing peppers are a bell type usually about half the size of those used in the US, with thin walls, so you'll have to adjust according to what size peppers you have.

It can also be made with vine leaves; in short, for any kind of dolma/sarma.

People are sometimes surprised at the short-grain rice, but this is generally what is used throughout Turkey, both for stuffing as well as for pilaf.

Spicing should be seen as "suggested proportions." The friend who showed me this said "the more sumak, the better." This is not necessarily true. ;)


  • 20 Small stuffing peppers, tomatoes, eggplant sections, vine leaves...


  • 350 g beef or lamb, cut apprs. pea-size
  • c chopped parsley
  • c chopped fresh tomato
  • T isot pepper (heaping)
  • T ground sumak*
  • T dry mint
  • T tomato paste
  • T pepper paste
  • T margarine**
  • c washed short-grain rice (Calrose is good)
  • tsp salt, or to taste, black pepper to taste

Cooking Broth

  • water to cover
  • T margarine
  • tsp tomato paste
  • beef boullion cube (optional)***

* More traditional is to soak about 3/4 c whole sumak berries (if you can find it) in warm water overnight, then strain and add this liquid to the cooking liquid. But if you can't find whole sumak, adding dry to the stuffing works too.

**Traditionally rendered tail fat would be used.

***Sometimes lamb ribs are placed on the bottom of the pan; the marrow adds flavor to the dish. In the absence of this, I use boullion. Be aware of the extra salt.


Cut tops out of peppers and removed seeds/pith. If using tomatoes, choose firm ones. Hollow them out. Eggplant - use the long thin variety, cut in half, remove pith from inside for stuffing. Vine leaves - if fresh, cut off stems, blanch in boiling water; if in brine, wash well in fresh water and remove stems.

Mix all the stuffing ingredients well. Spoon filling into prepared peppers/eggplants/tomatoes and close tops. If using dried peppers/eggplants, leave a bit of a margin and fold the loose end to close. Often you will have missing bits of a dried pepper, no matter, just patch it (from the inside) with another piece. You can even take large fragments and roll them as if they were grape leaves. If using grape leaves, roll them in your favorite manner.

Pack the stuffed vegetables into two layers in a 6-qu pot. If you have extra, put them in another saucepan to make a single layer. It's preferable not to have open areas as this means a lot more water will be added.

Add water to cover, add the tomato paste, boullion and margarine. If you are using dried peppers, use the soaking water; if you soaked whole sumak berries, strain and add this water to the cooking liquid. Cover with an inverted plate that fits fairly well into the pan. Cover pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, checking water. There should always be a bit of water there but toward the end it should be much less; this will absorb during the resting time. Cook for around 25-30 minutes till rice is tender or until the rice has reached the consistency you like. (Some like firmer, some like softer rice. Both of these people will almost certainly be members of the same family and one person or another will complain that it is either too firm or too mushy, or the salt isn't right, or there could have been more sumak, or...). Turn off heat and allow to rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Keywords: Main Dish, Middle Eastern, Intermediate, Lunch, Dinner

( RG1980 )

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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