Along the Grapevine


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Dolmas, or Venison Stuffed Grapeleaves

DSC_0121I have already posted recipes for dolmas using leaves from wild grape vines, and really thought I was done. My previous recipes have served me well and I saw no need for any more variations but with a little ground venison at my disposal and a special request to prepare dolmas, I felt compelled to add to my repertoire.  You don’t need to use venison in this recipe – any ground meat will work just as well. The spices are what makes these so good, and by using a generous amount of short-grained rice the texture is light.

I also feel the need to remind readers that grape leaf season is coming to an end, and this is the time to harvest all you will need for the winter months. The weather has been kind to the vines, and if I’m not mistaken the season has been longer this year than usual.

I am sure this recipe could be cooked in an Instant Pot in about half the time, but I opted for the old-fashioned way so I could keep an eye on their progress. However, when cooking these on a stove top, it is useful to line the bottom of a pot with something to protect them from getting scorched. I usually use sliced potatoes, but any root vegetable can be used, and then served alongside the dolmas. This time I lined the pot with corn husks, the same ones I used for making tamales. It also occurred to me that a good thick layer of grape leaves would work and add even more grape leafy flavour.

Venison Dolmas

Ingredients
1/2 cup short grained rice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb ground meat
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground sumac
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
4 dozen mature grape leaves

Method
Blanche the leaves in boiling water, drain and set aside. Pour boiling water over the rice and allow to sit for 20 minutes, then drain and let cool.
Mix all the ingredients except the leaves together in a bowl. To fill the leaves, place the leaf shiny side down, remove any remaining stem below the leaf. Place about 1 tsp of the mixture at the base of the leaf, fold over once, then wrap the sides inward and continue rolling.
To cook the dolmas, you need to stack them carefully in a pot, close enough together they support each other, but loosely enough they can expand slightly. Pour water or stock until almost covered and place a weight on top to press them down. Bring to a boil, then simmer until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 hour.

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DSC03599Related Posts:Wild Grape Leaves;  Vegetarian Dolmas; Stuffed Fermented Grape Leaves


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Mole a la Canadienne – with Cornbread or Venison

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With a new batch of venison to work with, I decided to make a Mexican style mole, a spicy, savoury chocolate sauce usually served with chicken. Once I worked out a version of this which included some of my own local ingredients, I thought it too good not to share with vegetarians too, which is why today I am bringing to Fiesta Friday two dishes, one vegan and one using meat. The mole is not as complex as many of the authentic Mexican recipes out there in that I only used one kind of chili pepper. However, the other spices, dried fruit and chocolate resulted in a delicious addition to the simplest of meals, and it is so easy to prepare that you could make it and figure out how you want to serve it a few days later. Just beware that after a couple of days the heat increases, so if you don’t want it too hot you might want to reduce the amount of peppers you use.

Mole a la Canadienne

Ingredients

5 dried chilis serranos

1 cup hot water

1 dozen dried apricots

2 Tbsp sumac powder

2 cloves

3 allspice berries

1 star anise 1 2-inch cinnamon stick

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate

herbs and roasted hazelnuts for garnish

Method Soak the chilis in hot water for about 15 minutes in a saucepan. Grind the cloves, anise and allspice and add them along with the cinnamon and sumac to the chilis in water and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon and pour the mixture into a blender. Add the apricots and blend until it forms a smooth paste. Return to the pan and add the grated chocolate. Heat until the chocolate is melted. This will keep several days in the fridge but might need a little extra water when reheated.

To serve it with cornbread, any savoury recipe works for this, but I highly recommend this one from The Breakfast Drama Queen. Not only is it vegan and gluten free, but it is super tasty and nutritious with the addition of squash. Coriander leaves would make a perfect garnish along with the hazelnuts, but I used some sweetened, dried dandelion leaves. DSC01593

For the venison, I used a rump roast. I sliced it so that the marinade would penetrate completely. A simple marinade was all that was needed, as the spices in the mole were sufficient. I apologize for not having pictures of the finished product – not too sure how that happened. Perhaps with the excitement of this birthday dinner I neglected to check the camera had its bit, so I will try to make another and add photo when I am focussed. DSC01592

Venison with Mole

Ingredients

1 1/4 lbs venison

1/2 cup oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

fat for frying salt and pepper to taste

toasted nuts and herbs for garnish

Method

Slice the meat to a thickness of about 1/4 in. Place in a dish and cover with the garlic, oil and vinegar mixture. Allow it to sit several hours in the fridge. When ready to cook, drain and pat the slices dry and season with salt and pepper. Fry on a medium high heat a couple of minutes on each side, or longer if you want them well cooked. Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and herbs.

Serve with the mole and garnish with the nuts and herbs, such as parsley, cilantro or dandelion leaves.


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Pulled Venison with Wild Grape Ketchup

At this time of year, our hunter friends often regale us with a good supply of venison –  a real treat. I have learned how to cook it through experiment. As all game, it can be tough and needs some special care and attention, especially if it is not a young animal.  I  learned that an acidic marinade of wild fruit and berries, sometimes beer or wine is what it really needs as a tenderiser. So when I decided to try a pulled venison and found no suitable recipe on-line, I used my wild grape ketchup I made in the summer. As it is already rich in flavour, I added only some juniper berries as a spice along with garlic and onion. My own junipers are buried in snow, so for the time being cannot experiment with them. I used some commercial ones which you can find in most good shops selling spices.

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If you don’t have any wild grape ketchup on hand, you can use the recipe I have given and simply use a dark grape juice.

Pulled Venison

1 venison roast (approx. 4 lbs)

1 1/2 cups wild grape ketchup

2 onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

10 juniper berries, crushed

1 Tbsp liquid smoke (optional)

1 tsp salt

Cut the roast into four pieces. Place it in a slow cooker. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over it. Turn the slow cooker on to high, and once it is good and hot turn to low and cook for 6-8 hours, until the meat can be pulled.

Remove the meat from the sauce, pull it with two forks. Meanwhile, continue cooking the sauce while pulling the pork. Remove about 1 cup to be used as a sauce, and put the pulled meat into the remaining sauce and heat through.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could do it in a heavy, covered pan in the oven 325 F to begin with and then when hot lower it to 275 F for roughly the same amount of time.

This can be used as a sandwich filling, but I served it on a bed of mashed turnip, potato and parsnip with sauteed brussel sprouts on the side. It was every bit as tender and tasty as I expected it to be.

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