The name comes from a Turkic verb meaning “to fill” or “stuff”, “dolmaq” in Azerbaijani. The most popular dolma in Azerbaijan are stuffed vine leaves, aubergines, tomatoes, peppers or cabbage leaves. Apple dolma make an unusual, tasty alternative, however, with a pleasing contrast between the sweet fruit and the savoury filling.
Preparation time: 40 min
Cooking time: 30-45 min
- For the filling
- 200 g/8 oz lamb or veal or a combination of the two
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 25 g/1 oz melted butter or 1 tbspn of vegetable or olive oil (butter is traditional)
- a handful of chestnuts
- 1 tspn of ground cinnamon
- 1 tspn of allspice
- a pinch of turmeric or a couple of strands of saffron
- salt & pepper
- 6 large apples (dessert or cooking apples can be used; in Azerbaijani cuisine only dessert apples are used as cooking apples are not grown here)
- 2 dessertspoons of sugar or honey (or slightly more if using cooking apples) and 1 dessertspoon of lemon juice
- 1 glass (or more, depending on cooking time) of bouillon or hot water
- If using saffron, put the threads in a cup and add 1 tablespoon of boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.
- Pierce the chestnuts. Cover with water in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the water and shell. Don’t take all the chestnuts out of the water at once, as they are difficult to shell when dry. Roughly chop the shelled chestnuts.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
- Put the minced meat, finely chopped onion, chopped chestnuts, spices, melted butter or oil and salt into a bowl and mix well with your hands.
- Mix the honey and lemon juice in a saucer.
- Wash the apples and pat dry with a cloth or kitchen paper.
- Slice off the tops and set aside. Remove the cores and some of the flesh of the fruit to create a hollow for the stuffing.
- Rub the inside of the apples with the honey and lemon juice mixture. This helps to prevent the apples from going too brown and to bring out the flavour.
- Stuff the apples with the meat mixture, pressing the filling down hard. Put the tops back on the apples as lids.
- Wrap each apple in foil (to help them keep their shape and moisture) and stand upright in a baking dish or ovenproof shallow pan.
- Add half a glass of bouillon or hot water to the baking dish.
- Place the dish in the hot oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes until the meat is cooked.
- Pour the cooking juice over each apple before serving. Serve with fresh crusty bread and yoghurt (optional).