The lime tree is a treasure, with something to offer foragers throughout the spring, summer and autumn. Try stuffing its more mature leaves to create this wild-picked take on the classic mezze dish.
The lime tree (Tilia x europaea), also known as the linden, is a much-valued edible as it offers different yields with the changing seasons. In early spring, it can be tapped for sap, which is used to make drinks; while a little later on, its young leaves make an excellent addition to salads. In summer, its flowers can be used for cordials, syrups, jellies and jams and its autumn fruits can be crushed into a chocolate-like paste. The slightly tougher, more mature leaves, meanwhile, can be used for stuffing and we couldn’t wait to try them out as a wild-picked replacement for vine leaves in these dolmas.
Dolmas are a popular mezze snack throughout much of the Mediterranean, Middle East and areas of north Africa, where they are a culinary legacy of the Ottoman Empire. Their name comes from the Turkish word "dolmak" meaning "to stuff" and their most common variations are meat-stuffed dolmas, typically served hot, and rice-stuffed dolmas like these, which are usually served cold and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. We've opted for a north African twist on the flavourings, which makes use of another widely available ingredient in early summer, the rose petal. Dolmas are traditionally made with vine leaves, which are larger than the lime, so although these dolmas may be a little smaller than the usual kind, the lime leaf tastes just as good, if not better.
Three types of lime grow in the UK: the broad-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos), the small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) and the common lime (Tilia x europaea), which is a naturally occurring hybrid between the two species. The common lime is the species you are most likely to come across in gardens and parks, whereas the others occur more frequently in the wild. All types are edible, although the small-leaved lime might be impractical for the purposes of the this recipe, where larger leaves are best. See our foraging guide for more information on how to distinguish them.
Ingredients (makes 20 dolmas):
35 large lime leaves
160g basmati rice, soaked for 15-20mins
1 tbsp chopped almonds
½ tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp raisins, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Glug of olive oil for frying
Approx 1pt vegetable stock
For the spice mix (alternatively, for a quick version, you could use 2 tsp ras el hanout):
2 cloves, crushed
½ tsp dried coriander
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground turmeric.
2tsp dried rose petals, finely chopped
- Soak the rice in cold water for 15-20mins to remove excess starch, rinse and drain.
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the shallot until translucent. Add in the chopped garlic and spice mix and heat through for another minute or two.
- Combine the rice in a bowl with the the spiced onion mix, almonds, raisins and oregano
- Take 20 of the largest and best lime leaves and blanche in boiling water for around 5sec before removing and laying out on a chopping board.
- Use the remaining lime leaves to line a large, flat bottomed, lidded pan. This will prevent the dolmas from sticking or burning while being cooked.
- Lay the blanched leaves veiny side out. Create the dolmas by putting a heaped teaspoon of the rice mixture in the centre of each leaf and then folding in the ends, before rolling.
- Arrange the dolmas in the pan on top of the leaves.
- Cover with a plate, pour over the vegetable stock until submerged and cook for 25 minutes.
- Remove the plate and cook for a further 20 min with the pan lid on.
- Leave to cool in the pan and then refrigerate for around 2hrs to firm up. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a lemon wedge.
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!