After sharing the stories with you that won the second prize in our writing contest, it’s time to reveal the story that won the first prize! It’s called Dolmades on a moped. This wonderful piece of work is written by Al Johnson from New Zealand. The story is about Al’s experience making dolmades with egg-lemon sauce at Odyssey. I completely fell for it because it is so incredibly funny, witty and well written. His story gives such a good impression of the madness and fun of cooking at Odyssey!
Congratulations Al on winning the first prize and a free week at Odyssey during Greek Easter! We can’t wait to see you and start the Easter celebrations together. Thank you for your fantastic story!
Of course we also share the recipe for the dolmades with egg-lemon sauce, or dolmades avgolemono as we call them. Just like in Al’s story, you get to see my mother making them!
DOLMADES ON A MOPED
It was an unusually quiet day at The Odyssey on my first visit to Poros, having said our farewells to a group of energetic American ladies, and now for a few days, I was the sole guest signed up to Katerina’s cookery course. As we sat around the breakfast table, she asked what dishes I particularly wanted to learn to cook.
Stuffed vine leaves
I mentioned that I had a vine growing along the North-facing wall of my house in New Zealand, and had always wondered whether it would be possible to make stuffed vine leaves – or dolmades – with the leaves. “Of course,” said Katerina and explained that a vine was a vine, but it was the younger, lighter leaves that were best, as they were softer, and better eating. Not only this, but her mother was going to make dolmades that morning, apparently in industrial quantities for the adjoining restaurant, and we should come down and help.
Clinging onto the scooter
Rather than book a taxi for just one guest, Katerina thought it would be easier to take her moped. Five minutes later I found myself riding pillion as Katerina whizzed down Askeli beach into town, weaving around cats and pedestrians with one hand and greeting every local with the other. Meanwhile I was busy clinging onto both the scooter and that traditional Kiwi attire – the leather bush hat – while trying to remember whether I had gone for the basic or the all-inclusive travel insurance.
Selecting vine leaves for the dolmades
With great relief, we arrived at the Sakelliou establishment and I had the honor of meeting Katerina’s parents, before getting down to the real business of making dolmades. At this point, it might be wiser to consult Katerina’s recipe book, but I do remember being given the important task of selecting the best vine leaves from the unlimited Sakelliou supply, while Katerina watched her mother making the stuffing at the stove, with onions, minced meat and washed rice, all the time speaking rapidly in Greek, and periodically nodding her head towards me.
At the time my Greek was limited to “Good morning”, “Goodnight”, “Please”, “Thank you” and “Mythos”, but I pride myself in understanding some body language, so I roughly translated the quizzical looks and giggles as meaning “Daughter, what is this strange Anglo-Saxon man doing in my kitchen?” Katerina’s reply was extensive, and, I thought, vaguely apologetic!
Huge pot of dolmades
Three pairs of hands and a couple of hours later, we had made enough dolmades to keep Odysseus happy, filling a large aluminum pot, and covered in the recommended egg-lemon sauce. But then we had a problem….how to get them back to The Odyssey on a moped. I will forever remember the return journey, with a huge pot of dolmades wedged between Katerina’s ankles, as she hurried home, occasionally shouting lighthearted but culturally insensitive remarks about Australasian bush hats, while trying to avoid the embarrassment of being spotted by people she knew (most of the island!).
I can however report that we got there unscathed, apart from some lost egg-lemon sauce, our friendship and the hat survived, and the dolmades were delicious.
Making dolmades with egg-lemon sauce
You just read all about Al’s experience making dolmades with egg-lemon sauce. When it comes to dolmades, my mother is a master in making them! Watching her fold the vine leaves with the stuffing is an experience. Join her as she shows you how to do it! First Al tells us about his love for dolmades avgolemono:
“Mediterranean cooking is so much about using seasonal produce, so the idea of wrapping small parcels of food in the younger leaves from the growing vine appealed to me, and this recipe once more provides that connection. I had thought special Greek vine leaves were necessary, but Katerina assured me that the vine that grows abundantly along the sunny side of my house in New Zealand would do just fine. Don’t forget the egg-lemon sauce that adds an extra dimension.”
Let’s make dolmades with egg-lemon sauce! Get some beautiful vine leaves, wash them thoroughly and boil them for 5 minutes. Cool the leaves in cold water and strain them.
This is my sweet mother, who will help me guide you to make your own dolmades avgolemono. It’s time to prepare the stuffing; Put the minced meat, rice, onion, dill, parsley, egg, mint, half the olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well.
Put a vine leaf on your hand with the smooth side down. For the filling, add about a tablespoon of the mixture near the stem. Don’t forget to remove the stem and then fold and roll all the way. The result will be a cigar shaped roll. Squeeze it tightly but carefully so it does not break. Repeat this procedure for each grape leave.
Place the result of your hard labor in a pan starting from the edge moving towards the centre. More layers may be placed on top.
This is just one pan of dolmades, but it’s exactly like Al wrote; my mother makes ‘industrial quantities’ of dolmades!
Let’s go back to your pan! Add the remaining oil and water to cover the dolmades. Put a plate on top of the dolmades to make sure they can’t move when they are boiling. Once they boil, lower the heat and cook the dolmades for 30 minutes.
It’s time to make the egg-lemon sauce (avgolemono sauce). Beat the eggs with a fork or a hand mixer and add the lemon juice. Next add the corn flour (starch) and mix until it has dissolved. While still beating the eggs pour water of the dolmades with a soup spoon, a little at a time (about a cup).
Let the dolmades cool for a while before you pour over the egg-lemon sauce. When it’s time, pour all of the mixture in the pan and toss it around in such a way that the sauce reaches the bottom. You just made your own dolmades with egg-lemon sauce! I hope you enjoy them as much as Al does!