Recipes from Azerbaijan: Kelem Dolmasi

Recipes from Azerbaijan

Kelem Dolmasi

Country: Azerbaijan
Course: Appetizer
Makes: 24 dolma


  • 20 ounces ground lamb
  • 1 large cabbage
  • 8 ounces onions
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 ounces short-grain rice
  • 2 ounces chickpeas
  • 3 ounces lamb fat
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons water


  1. Boil the rice for eight minutes. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion. .
  2. Chop the herbs and chop/mash the chickpeas. Mince the lamb and the lamb fat, then with your hands mix in the onion, spices, chickpeas, rice and chopped herbs. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Fill a large saucepan with salted water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Now pull the outer leaves off of the cabbage (save them) and drop the rest of it, whole, into the water. Let it boil for three or four minutes, turning it if the water level isn't quite high enough to completely cover it.
  4. Carefully take the cabbage out of the water (but keep the water boiling) and let it cool for a minute or two so you don't burn your fingers. Carefully pull the leaves off the cabbage, cutting them at the base if you have to do so to loosen them. Try to get them off in one piece. If the inner leaves are still crispy, return the cabbage to the boiling water for another three or four minutes. Repeat until all of the useable leaves are free.
  5. Now put the leaves on a cutting board and cut out the tough stalks (save them). Cut the largest leaves in half.
  6. Put a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the middle of each leaf, making a short cylinder shape. Fold the ends over the filling, then roll tightly (as if you are making a tiny burrito.
  7. Put all of the discarded cabbage leaves, stalks etc. into the bottom of a stockpot. Carefully place the dolma on the bed of cabbage leaves.
  8. Add water to the stockpot up to about the top of the discarded leaves. Don't cover the dolma.
  9. Place a metal pie pan or another oven-safe dish on top of the dolma and use a heavy object to weigh it down. This is done so the dolma don't unwrap during cooking.
  10. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, make a simple tomato sauce out of the tomato paste and water. Heat it up for a few minutes over a medium flame. After the dolma have been cooking for 25 minutes, pour the sauce over them and cook for another five minutes.