This is my take on Greek dolmades. I first had stuffed vine leaves at my grandad’s guesthouse in Southend, and deeply regret not pilfering his recipe before he passed away. I wrap mine in cabbage leaves, which will no doubt have him swearing at me from beyond the grave, but these go down well in my house.

(Makes 20) at 30p each
1 large savoy cabbage, 80p
100g rice, 4p
1 tbsp oil, 3p
1 onion, very finely chopped, 9p
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped, 6p
400g minced meat (pork or lamb is best but turkey is good too), £4.50
1 tbsp parsley, chopped, 8p
1 tbsp mint, chopped, 8p
Pinch of cinnamon, 1p
140g tomato puree, 34p

Remove the leaves from the stalk of the cabbage and simmer them in a saucepan of boiling water for a few minutes.

When they’ve softened, remove with a slotted spoon and leave to dry on a clean tea towel or kitchen roll.

Bring the water back to the boil, add the rice and cook for 15 minutes, or until soft and fluffy.

In a separate pan, heat the oil on medium and add the onion, garlic and mince, until the onion has softened and mince has browned. Mix in the rice, parsley, mint, cinnamon and tomato puree and cook for another minute or two.

To make the stuffed leaves, place two teaspoons of the rice and mince mixture into the centre of a leaf, fold in the sides and roll up tightly. Eat them hot with yoghurt, mint and cucumber dip, or cold with a squeeze of lemon.

Jack’s tip
For a more substantial main dish, put the stuffed leaves seam-side down into a roasting tin or casserole dish, pour over a tin of chopped tomatoes or 400ml chicken stock with a few tablespoons of tomato puree stirred in, and bake in the oven at 180C/350F/gas mark four for half an hour.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

First published in The Guardian, Weds 26th Feb. Photography by Graeme Robertson for The Guardian.


  1. I’ve got a grapevine in my back garden and it produces loads of leaves that I have to prune off and throw away. How could I use them in this recipe? And would they freeze?

    • Hi constf, I’m Bulgarian and we also cook stuffed vine leaves and with cabbage leaves. Many households make their own vine leaves for stuffed leaves later on. Here are some ideas how to use them from your grapevine:
      1) pick fresh leaves when they are finished growing fully, but before they go a darker green for the summer. Depending on the weather, this may be late May for you. You want them to be fresh and green, because the darker they go, the more resilient and leathery they turn.
      2) pick the largest leaves. You will come to appreciate that when you’re trying to wrap the filling in a leaf and have it not leak from anywhere. Pick leaves as large as a man’s palm.
      3) wipe the leaves a bit from the possible dust and stack them orderly in packs of 20 – makes it easier to cook a smaller meal. You can always throw out the excess if you don’t use them. Obviously it is better to make fresh each spring instead of keeping them over a year.
      4) roll the packs into cigars and choose: either put the stacks in a bag and in the freezer (they won’t take up much space) to use throughout the year, or put them in a jar, pour water to the neck of the jar, close securely and boil the jar at low heat for 15-20 mins to sterilise. This one is more work, so you may want to choose the freezer option.
      5) when you take them out to cook, if you haven’t boiled them in a jar, blanch them in boiling water for a minute until they go yellow-green and then you’re good to go. Plop a bit of filling in the center, pack securely, boil them together after packing (Jack hasn’t suggested that option, but it’s traditional in Bulgaria – it makes the whole thing softer to eat and releases the flavour of the leaf into the filling) at low heat so the bottom row doesn’t burn, and then put yoghurt on top to serve, etc. etc.
      Think this is informative enough, feel free to ask if you need more info.

  2. Elizabeth Ayton’s book on English cooking has a recipe for dolmades, made with cabbage leaves that goes back to the 17th century, one of the benefits of being a maritime nation I guess.

  3. I don’t think you’re grandfather would do any such thing! Why? Because the Greeks also do stuffed cabbage leaves as well as vine leaves. They use cabbage leaves in winter and vine in summer.

  4. Could these be frozen? I’m thinking maybe freeze immediately after rolling, then when defrosted, top with the chopped tomatoes and baked. Any thoughts?

  5. Hi jack. Been following your recipes for a while now, both because I’m skint and because I work with people on low incomes. I’m a veggie and I’m finding your recipes a bit less veggie friendly since your income has increased – understandable I suppose. Would appreciate suggestions for veggie alternatives more often 🙂 thanks
    Oh! Or meaty alternatives for the veggie stuff. I cook meat, very unwillingly and with minimum contact lol, for a couple of grown up non veggie sons.

  6. Ps I think your recipes are great and they work well for me. But I struggle to find anything for my non veggie sons who have very traditional tastes and don’t like green stuff, spices, chick peas blah blah. They’re not very adventurous! I like your recipes – the veggie friendly ones at least! And your suggestions for food on low income are second to none! But any suggestions for those who only like traditional stuff? Oh, and with special consideration for those of us who are cooking meat but prefer minimum contact with the (cadaver) meat. I HATE browning the stuff!
    Not really your problem I know. But any thoughts? Thanks x

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