Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’… (Hala’s sarma recipe)

Rollin’ sarma,  that is!

As much as I gripe about chores being piled on me,  it really pays off when it comes to things like this.

Hubby’s grandpa is in the hospital, likely running out his last days.  That has brought his hala (aunt) to our door.  In order to keep her mind off of the unpleasantness,  we’ve been making foods that are traditionally prepared with a few sets of hands.  Sarma is one of them!  Now I can say without a doubt that I get why women would come together in groups to prepare this delicacy.  All of that rolling is WORK!

But it’s wonderful, bonding work.  I sat there and rolled sarma with them,  listening to them gossip and cracking a smile when I understood something they said.  Stopping a moment to enjoy the scent of the pickled leaves and spices on my fingers (and being teased about sticking my nose in everything!).

Sarma has a long and delicious history in Turkish culture,  and will eventually end up on every Turkish table sometime in the year.  Enjoy this recipe best by preparing it with family or friends.  Even better,  share your final product and show everyone that non-Turks can make it too 😉 (or if you’re a Turk,  up your cooking game haha).

6 cups rice, washed and drained
2 onions, finely diced
1 bunch parsley, diced
1 bunch dill, diced
1 bunch green onion, diced
5 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp pepper paste
2 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp dolma spice
1 tsp sugar
5 tbsp olive oil

0.5 kilo pickled grape leaves


1.  Wash the grape leaves and blanch them in lightly boiling water for 5 seconds (do this in batches).  Let drain in a colander.
2. Cook onion to softness with 3tbsp olive oil.  Stir in 3 tbsp tomato paste and all pepper paste and let simmer until smooth.
3. Add washed and drained rice,  mixing continuously and cooking on medium high.  It should sizzle.
4. Cook rice for about 10 minutes or until very dry and the pastes are slightly browning.  Add all spices and remaining oil. Mix well. Allow to cool.
5. Add herbs and green onion to the mix after it has cooled.
6. Place filling in grape leaf and roll like a burrito (as shown below).  It should be tightly rolled and the size of a cigarette in thickness.

7. Layer sarma in a pot,  with the bottom covered with the herb stems.
8. In a separate pan,  cook remaining 2 tbsp of tomato paste in approx 2c water until smooth. Much like dolma, the sarma needs to cook in a sauce to maintain flavor. Pour hot tomato sauce into the pot.  Add water until sarmas are just covered. Use a clay topper or a bowl to weigh them down and prevent floating.
9. Bring to a low boil and cook until rice is done (approx.  40 min). Don’t be shy to bite one to check.
10. Let cool to room temp.  Good hot or cold.

Serve with lemon and yogurt

Afiyet olsun!!