These are cooked in a tomato passata, making them extra juicy, and which also helps break through the acidy of the pickled vine leaves.
- 1 onion, diced
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) olive oil
- 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) long-grain rice
- 100 g (31/2 oz/2/3 cup) pine nuts
- 25 g (1 oz/1/2 cup) finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- 10 g (1/4 oz/1/4 cup) finely chopped dill
- 250 g (9 oz) packet vine leaves
- 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) tomato juice
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF/Gs 4). Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium–low heat. Add the onion and cook gently until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes, then add 500 ml (17 floz/2 cups) water, the pine nuts, parsley and dill. Increase the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes — all of the liquid should be absorbed. Remove from the heat and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Separate the vine leaves and lightly rinse them to remove any brine. Lay the vine leaves, vein side up — the smooth side is on the outside of the rolled dolmades. Place a tablespoon of the rice mixture at one end of a leaf and roll up tightly from the bottom, folding in the sides to make a neat log — it should end up looking a bit like a cigar. Repeat until all of the rice mixture is used.
Arrange any broken or leftover leaves in the base of a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inch) baking dish. Place the dolmades in rows, stacking them in two neat layers. Arrange a few remaining vine leaves on top, then pour over the tomato juice — it should fill the dish almost to the top layer of the dolmades.
Bake the dolmades in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the tomato juice has evaporated. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Dolmades are best cold or at room temperature. They keep for about a week in the refrigerator, but they never last longer than a day in our house!