Packed with herb and onion infused juices, this meat tolma is a celebration of love and labor. Enjoy with family and friends this traditional Armenian dish that is ancient yet always novel.
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Chronicles of Armenian Tolma
What does an Urartian word toyli 𒄑𒌌𒁲 have to do with tolma?
This ancient Urartian word was used for grapes, vine, and leaf; “tolma” is derived from that word. Every historical Armenian province, every town, and every village has a unique tolma recipe, and each household makes it special. A tradition that is passed down from one generation to another which might have started thousands of years ago in the Armenian Highlands.
Vegetarian and meat options of tolma became a staple in every Armenian household and of course all over the Middle East and Mediterranean region.
It’s no surprise that there are more than 100 varieties of tolma.
Tolma is an important part of New Year and Christmas celebrations. The ritual of preparing tolma was a family event when every member, smallest to oldest, was participating. An enormous quantity of minced meat was prepared and hundreds of grape leaves were picked and arranged. Tolma was cooked in huge cooking vessels – spreading the inviting smell all around.
What is special sbout this Meat Tolma Recipe?
This is a tolma recipe that I grew up with; and even though it might seem overwhelming, it comes together very easily if planned ahead. This is a scaled-down recipe that is more manageable to put together for even one person.
I prearrange all the leaves beforehand and place a dollop of meat filling on each leave. This way I can gauge how much meat per leaf I need because the sizes of the leaves vary.
This tolma recipe is also gluten-free.
Cooked tolma are good for 2-3 days and reheat really well.
Grocery and Pantry list for Tolma
Special Tools to Use:
- Cooking pan: Use a pot big enough to hold all the ready tolmas.
- Plate: You will need a plate that is slightly smaller than the pan. It needs to be heat resistant and without chips. The plate is meant to keep the tolmas submerged and tucked together.
Prep 30-45 minutes
Cooking 30 – 45 minutes
Make Meat Tolma – Step by Step
Step 1: Grinding the Beef, Onion and Herbs
If you choose to grind the beef yourself, get chuck beef that has some marbling fat.
Cube the beef into manageable pieces. Cut the onion into wedges.
Feed the meat and onion pieces through the grinder, alternating with herbs.
Using Ground Beef
If using ground beef, either finely chop the onions and the herb or process in a food processor for 10-20 pulses until finally minced.
Step 2: Making the Meat Stuffing
In a medium bowl combine the ground beef, onion, and herbs.
Add the rinsed and drained rice, and season with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Preparing the grape leaves
The brined leaves require a little preparation.
Cut the excess stems off and give the leaves a good rinse in a hot water to wash off the brine.
Separate the leaves and arrange them in the workstation.
The assembling of tolma looks a little bit challenging at first but after a couple of rolls, you might find it quite easy. Keep in mind not to roll it too tight, since rice expands and it might burst out.
Prepare the working station for the assembly process. Have the cooking pan, grape leaves and the meat filling ready. I use a clear plastic tablecloth for my assembly area.
Place the grape leaves (shiny face down) on a large flat surface.
Put a spoonful of meat filling on top of each leave, just under the stem cavity, and form into an oblong cylindrical shape across the leaf. The amount of the filling should be about the size of your thumb depending of the leaf size.
Start folding: Bring the leaf base over the filling and tuck it in.
Then fold the sides and keep rolling into cigar shape little logs. They should not be too tight or too loose but rather firm.
Line a few grape leaves on the bottom of the pan (use the imperfect leaves).
Arranged the ready tolmas in the pan on top of the leaves.
Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of each layer.
Place a flat plate on top of the last layer and add enough hot water to cover plate.
Let the water come to a boil and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 30-40 minutes.
How to Serve Tolma?
Grape leaf Meat Tolma is traditionally served with garlic yogurt dip. Add the minced or pressed garlic to yogurt.
As an option plain yogurt or sour cream.
One other fun way of serving tolma is with chopsticks.
Storage Instructions and Freezing Suggestion
You can make the filling a day before.
Tolma can be made and cooked 1-day prior, and reheats wells. You will need the liquid to steam and warm up the tolma rolls.
Tolma will keep in the refrigerator for a week or freeze for up to 3 month.
Tips and Wisdom
More Recipes From Cafe Osharak
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And if you like this recipe and would like to find more recipes on Armenian dishes please check out this recipes.
Genuine Armenian Meat Tolma – Msov Tpov Tolma
- 500 g meat ground
- 500 g grape leaves
- 25 g rice
- 100 g onion minced
- 20 stems Basil/parsley handfull
- 1 teaspoon salt kosher
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Cube the meat and season it with the salt, pepper and paprika.
- Grind the meat, onion, parsley and basil.
- Add the rice and combine thoroughly with your hands.
- If using pre-ground meat, finely chop the onions, parsley and basil and combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Cover and store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.
- Meanwhile prepare the grape leaves.
- Cut the excess stems off and give the leaves a good rinse in a hot water to wash off the brine.
- Prepare the working station for the assembly process. Have the cooking pan, grape leaves and meat filling ready.
- Place a couple of grape leaves (shiny face down) on a large flat surface.
- Put a spoonful of meat filling on top of each leaf, just under the stem cavity, and form into an oblong cylindrical shape across the leaf. The amount of the filling should be about the size of your thumb depending on the leaf size.
- Start folding: Bring the leaf base over the filling and tuck it in.
- Then fold the sides.
- Keep rolling into cigar shape little logs. They should not be too tight or too loose but rather firm.
- Line a few grape leaves on the bottom of the pan (use the imperfect leaves).
- Arrange the ready tolmas in the pan on top of the leaves.
- Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of each layer.
- Place a flat plate on top of the last layer and add enough hot water to cover the plate.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and cook for 45-50 minutes.