216093 1756429663283 1015220362 31576350 5695723 n

Dolmadoes in a Dutch Oven

recipe and photo provided by Gwen Surell

The trail drives found cooks who reared from many different cultures, heritages and backgrounds. While most meals were merely beans and biscuits, a cook exposed to great savoir-faire, would carry knowledge from herbal medicines, too an array of cuisines that titillated the Cowboy’s appetite. 

DOLMA is dish from the once powerful Ottoman Empire that controlled southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and North Africa during the 16th and 17th century. The dish is a family of stuff vegetables taking the Turkish word as name, meaning “stuff.”

This staple dish became popular in surrounding areas of the Ottoman Empire expanding into the regions of Russia, Iran, and Caucasus. Some areas through the Mediterranean used grape leaves to wrap ingredients while other others such as northern Europe and Scandinavia used Cabbage.

As north America populated, this dish would also arrive through recipes and available ingredients found on the American Continent.  Explorers, settlers and even cattle drives would find literally dozens of species of wild grapes found growing throughout North America. The Texas Hill Country of central Texas was no exception.

Grapes are a perennial plant with woody vines which grow thicker and higher than other native vines. Their fruit used to make jelly or fillings, the vine, sometimes dried and used to smoke like tobacco cigarettes, and to a  savoir-faire cook, the leaves gathered used to make unique meals.

Some Cowboys found the dish hearty, others just preferred to stick with traditional meals.  Harvesting of grape leaves is during spring everywhere in the world. The leaf, large and green will have a fresh tarty taste. It shouldn’t be bitter.

Gwen Surell and her boyfriend both enjoy cooking with cast iron. They met each other while taking a Dutch Oven Cooking Class. She also join the International Dutch Oven Society ( IDOS ) and LSDOS (Lone Star Dutch Oven Society).  Emphasize modestly, Gwen stresses that she is far from season and cooking with a Dutch Oven is more of a hobby than a calling. Intrigued with the unique recipes over standard cobblers or chili, Gwen enjoys the Dutch Oven gatherings over competition. She also attended Kent Rolling’s Chuck Wagon Cooking School  last May.  Kent provides two classes each year. One during fall, the other in spring. His next class will be October 26th through the 30th.  “I learned a lot. I felt assured Kent has done this so many times because he never missed a beat and man, he can cook,” states Gwen. She further explain Kent teaching many aspects of the American Cowboy, Cowboy and even learned some things about the medicinal uses of Crown Royal.

Gwen is an excellent cook who has taken cooking into a new enjoyable experience. Learning the new tool of Cast Iron and taking the kitchen to the outdoors. “Food and friends just seem to go together, don’t they?” replied Gwen as she stated how she dearly enjoy the company of her friends when she cooks and sharing her skill with her boyfriend as they try new recipes in the Dutch Oven.

Dolmades – Dolmadoes


1/4 cup pine nuts
1 lb ground lamb
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2-3 tsp minced garlic
juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbs dried dill
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 16 oz jar grape leaves
1 Tbs olive oil (approx)
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth

In a 12″ Dutch oven using medium/high heat, roast the pine nuts until just lightly brown, and removethem from heat.  Brown the lamb – it will cook up more later, so do not overcook.  Scoop out the lamb using a slotted spoon and reserve for later.  Add to the pan: olive oil and onion.  Saute until just clear – about 2-3 minutes.  Add lemon juice, wine, roasted pine nuts, garlic, oregano, dill, parsley, and rice.  Stir together and simmer slowly for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat, and add back in the browned lamb.  Combine thoroughly.
Rinse off the grape leaves and drain.  Any broken or ripped pieces should be reserved to line the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Pinch off the stems first.  Then place the leaf shiny side down.  Take a heaping Tbs of lamb mixture, and place in the center of the leaf.  Roll the leaf until meat is covered, tuck in the sides, and continue rolling.  Place the dolmadoes seam side down on a plate.  Continue until all meat is rolled up.  There will be leftover leaves.

Use the broken and leftover leaves to line the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Place the rolled up dolamadoes on top of the grape leaves – snugly, but not too cramped.  OK to go to a second layer.

Drizzle olive oil over the tops of the dolmadoes, add the 1/4 cup of white wine, and then the cup of chicken broth.  Using a heavy glass pie plate, press the dolamdoes down firmly. If you have a brick or bacon press, place that inside the plate to keep it weighted down during cooking.  Cover the Dutch oven.

Arrange coals around the side and on top of the Dutch oven.  Bring liquid to boil first, then come to simmer.  Cook for about one hour.  Test for done, use a fork to pierce the dolmadoes easily.  Remove from heat, and let cool briefly.  Using tongs, arrange on a plate and serve.  Best served warm.  Enjoy!

return to recipes:
return to Chuck Wagons

Chuck Wagon Cook Kent Rollins with Gwen Surell      

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *