Iraqi dolma

Iraqi dolma

Preparation time
30 mins to 1 hour

Cooking time
1 to 2 hours

Serves 4

By Philip Juma
From Saturday Kitchen


  • 6 onions, peeled
  • 450g/1lb vine leaves, rinsed and drained
  • 8 baby peppers, cores removed and left whole
  • 8 lamb chops
  • 4–5 green cardamom pods
  • 8 garlic cloves, 6 thinly sliced and 2 peeled and left whole
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • 150ml/5fl oz pomegranate molasses
  • salt

For the stuffing

  • 1kg/2lb 4oz basmati or pudding rice, soaked and drained
  • 500g/1lb 2oz 20% fat lamb mince
  • 20g/¾ oz salt
  • 15g/½oz sunflower oil
  • 50g/1¾oz pomegranate molasses
  • 10g/⅓oz tamarind
  • 5g/¼oz freshly ground black pepper
  • 6g/¼oz ground all spice pimento
  • 2.5g/½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2.5g/½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2g/½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1.5g/⅓ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2.5g/½ tsp rose petals, ground (optional)


  1. Carefully make an incision halfway down each onion, making sure not to go past the core. Place them in a pan of salted water and bring to a simmer. When you see that each onion layer has expanded, drain and set aside.

  2. Mix all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl with 200ml/7fl oz water until thoroughly combined.

  3. Carefully remove each onion layer – you should have about three layers per onion. Stuff each of these, and the peppers, with the prepared filling. Set aside.

  4. Lay all the vine leaves out on a board and add a small amount of the filling to each one. Roll the vine leaves around the filling into small cigar shapes.

  5. Place the lamb chops, cardamom pods and whole garlic cloves in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 6–8 minutes. Drain and rinse the lamb under cold water.

  6. Scatter the sliced garlic on the bottom of a large saucepan, then add the lamb chops. Next, add the vine leaves, arranging to fit snugly on and around the meat. Repeat with the onions, then the peppers. Season generously with salt. Pour over the lemon juice, molasses and enough water to just cover the peppers at the top of the pan.

  7. Place a small plate on top of the pan and push down firmly. Place on the hob and bring to the boil. Boil, covered, for 15 minutes. Lower the heat, remove the lid and cook for a further 40 minutes.

  8. Place a large serving plate or tray over the pan, then flip the dolma onto it and serve in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.

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