Thursday, May 5, 2011


I am no expert on Azerbaijani, or Azeri (more on this later) cooking, so if you are looking for someone who is, try as this is where I found the recipe I attempted. This lady can really cook up a storm! The reason I chose the recipe is because I already had a cabbage in the fridge, and I hate letting fresh produce go to waste in the crisper drawer as it so often does. Every recipe on this blog looked amazing though and I could have (and hopefully will) cook many more of them.

While using my traditional search methods for finding recipes - google, I stumbled upon what looked like an anomaly. In some instances the adjective for 'of Azerbaijan' was 'Azerbaijani' and at other times 'Azeri'. Initially I assumed this was like 'Australian' as opposed to 'Aussie' or 'New Zealander' as opposed to 'Sheep Shagger' however according to some guy on youtube, this is incorrect (if you are interested the URL is: Do I believe this guy? Of course! He is wearing a yellow turtle neck jumper (sweater for northern hemisphere readers), how could you not believe him? Long story short, Azerbaijani is correct, Azeri being an ancient and now extinct language that was replaced by the Turcic language now spoken.

Azerbaijan is the second country I have cooked from the Caucuses and I hopefully gave this a better crack than I did with Armenia. Once again I discovered that Azerbaijan is a nation with an incredible history, beautiful scenery, architecture, culture etc. The Caucus region is quickly moving up the list of places I would love to visit. 

My main regret with this recipe is that I didn't debut the use of the Pomegranate. I had of course heard of a pomegranate before but I don't think I had actually seen one until reading some of the recipes from the aforementioned blog. This is what I have to say about the pomegranate - AWESOME! If you haven't used it before, do so. Tip is to cut the pomegranate in half so you have a top and bottom half, then hold over a bowl and bang the skin with a wooden spoon while using your fingers to filter out the white flesh: although this has absolutely nothing to to with the recipe below.

I liked the video from my last post so I thought I would keep it up. Please enjoy Azerbaijan's first entry into the Eurovision Song Contest: Day After Day - Elnur Huseynov feat. Samir Javadzade.

Kelem Dolmasi



450g Ground beef or lamb
1 Medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Tomato paste
½ Cup Medium grain rice, thoroughly washed and drained
½ Cup Chopped fresh coriander
½ Cup Chopped fresh dill
2-3 Tbsp Unsalted butter
1 Tsp Salt
¼ Tsp Pepper

For cooking:

1 Large green cabbage (about 1.4 kg). Pick a cabbage that is not too hard and is softer to touch, with leaves not too tight together. They will be easier to pull off.
2 Tbsp Tomato paste
1 ½ Cups Hot water
2 Tbsp Unsalted butter

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling. With your hand, knead thoroughly until well blended. Set aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. With a sharp knife, cut out the core of the cabbage and carefully pull off the leaves, keeping them whole and undamaged. 

Plunge the leaves into the boiling water in batches of 2-3, and blanch them for 5 minutes, until they have softened a little and are pliable. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. 

Keep a medium saucepan at hand. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, place them onto a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, cut out the rough center vein in the shape of a V from the leaves so they will be easier to roll up. You will need the cutouts veins later, so do not discard. If the leaves are too big, cut them in two along the center vein.

Place about 2 heaped tablespoons of the stuffing in the middle of each leaf and shape the filling slightly like a log. Fold in the sides, then roll tightly. Arrange the reserved cut out veins on the bottom of the saucepan (you can also arrange the damaged and torn leaves, or unused leaves on the bottom too), then place cabbage rolls on top, close together and seam side down, making several layers.

Dissolve the tomato paste in 1 ½ cup hot water and pour over the top of the rolls. The water should come to a little less than half of the rolls, but not more as the rolls will release their own juice, too. If not enough, add more. Dot the top layer with butter. Place a small lid or a small ovenproof plate on top to keep the rolls tight and to prevent them from opening. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium to low and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the cabbage leaves are tender, the filling is cooked, and the liquid has somewhat reduced.

Place dolma on a serving platter and spoon some of the cooking liquid on top. Serve with bread on the side.

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