Friday, 18 November 2016

Pumpkin Leaf and Choko Dolmades with Society Garlic Tahini Dressing

One of the best meals I've ever had was in Istanbul 15 years ago - at a local restaurant in a small alleyway.  The flavours and textures were incredible. I'd never tasted real dolmades before - just the canned ones. They are completely different - the taste experience has stayed with me and my mouth waters just thinking of being there.

I've recently started making my own. I forage through my permaculture garden and find a range of ingredients to make seasonal local versions of this very tasty meal and I am very impressed.  They taste so good!

Pumpkin leaf dolmades.

It may seem unlikely, but pumpkin leaves steamed lightly for just a few minutes lose their prickliness and become amazingly soft and delicious. Pumpkin leaves can be added to anything you use spinach in - spanikopita, quiche, stir-fry, soup, stew, curry ....

Here is my recipe for dolmades made with fresh garden ingredients.

Recipe: Pumpkin Leaf and Choko Dolmades


  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds (toasted)
  • 1 ½ cups rice
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 small finely sliced fennel bulb
  • 1 choko finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup fresh finely chopped mint (and/or tulsi, parsley, oregano...)
  • 1 lime/lemon freshly squeezed 
  • 1 tbsp lemon/lime zest
  • 50 young pumpkin leaves (or tender choko leaves)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Allspice


  1. Steam the pumpkin leaves for 5 mins and set aside to cool.
  2. Dice the onion and sauté with 1/4 cup of olive oil.
  3. When they turn translucent, add the toasted pine nuts/seeds* and sauté for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add rice and stir constantly for 5-10 minutes until the rice is translucent.
  5. Add fennel, cinnamon, lemon, pepper, dried currants allspice and chopped parsley.
  6. After another quick stir, add 1/2 cup of boiling water and simmer on low medium heat for 15-20 minutes until all the liquid has absorbed into the rice mixture.
  7. Take off heat and let cool.
  8. Roll a tablespoon of the mix onto each leaf and roll. 
  9. Serve with fresh natural yoghurt or tahini sauce (recipe below)

Put the veined side of the leaf up - place mixture near the stem end, roll once, fold sides over then finish rolling to the tip.

Note: Normally at this point with dolmades, the rolls are then packed very tightly into a pot and simmered with oil, lime/lemon juice and water for approx 45 mins until the liquid is absorbed. However I find that the pumpkin leaves do not survive this process like grape leaves do. The choko leaves or OK with it.

* I use a flat plate sandwich maker to quickly toast seeds.

I made balls with the left over rice mixture and rolled them in toasted sesame seeds - absolutely delicious lunchbox treat.

The abundant and easy to grow Society Garlic - the flowers have more garlic potency than the strappy leaves. They taste great in this tahini dressing. They taste great too in pesto.

Society Garlic Tahini Dressing


  • 1 cup tahini
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water, or more for consistency
  • A big handful of society garlic leaves and/or flowers (the flowers are more powerful)
  • 1 lemon/lime juiced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Whisk together by hand or in food processor until good smooth consistency

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    1. You said that the cooking removes the pumpkin leaf spikes - but these aren't cooked. I don't understand. Love to try them out, but am inclined to cooking them. Not sure I'd like the taste of raw pumpkin leaves. Did I miss something?

      1. Thanks for that - I wrote a comment before the recipe about steaming the leaves lightly, but did not write it in the recipe instructions. I have now added this as point 1. Much appreciated.

    2. I have pumpkin vines sprouting up everywhere at the moment, Morag. I think this is because I had lots of seeds in my compost this time around. I was thinking this morning I need to pull some out so as not to be engulfed by rampant vines. This will be a great use for them. Meg:)

    3. Morning Morag, thanks for this wonderful recipe, unfortunately my pumpkin plant died. I will have to plant another one soon. I have been using the society garlic in my salads lately, it's such a beautiful garlic flavour! Have a great week.

    4. That society garlic looks pretty. What kind of soil / aspect does it need to grow well. Ive got room for lots of pot plants. The soil has an unknown history of spraying so I'm not keen on growing food in it.

    5. Hi Morag!!! Ι' m from Greece. ''Dolmades'' is a very common meal here in Greece. We also make them with vine leaf (summer) or cabbage leaf (winter). Try it...

      Νice to meet you!!!