[Sca-cooks] 16th c. Safavid dulma-ye kalam (stuffed cabbage leaves)

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Sat Sep 4 11:27:07 PDT 2010

Kiri wrote:
>There is a recipe in Dame Hauviette's "A Celebration at the Serayi" for a
>period version of dolmas that does use grapevine leaves. She devised the
>recipe from a 16th c. travel diary by a German visiting Turkey. The
>description of the dish in the diary is pretty specific, even to specifying
>that "wine leaves" were used. However, it does not use rice as one of the
>ingredients but does describe how the leaves are wrapped around the filling
>as well as the completed item being boiled in water.

Yes, her recipe is based on the one from the journal of Hans 
Dernschwam (Hauviette consistently leaves out the "n" in his last 
name). He was in Kostantiniyye (aka Constantinople aka Istanbul) from 
1553 to 1555. Hauviette described Dernschwam as a young man when he 
was in Istanbul. However he was born in Bohemia in 1494 (and died in 
1568), so when he was in Istanbul, he was 59 to 61. Not what i would 
call a young man, but YMMV.

Dernschwam was not exactly a fan of Ottoman Turkish food. He begins 
his section on food by saying, "the Turks eat poor miserable foods 
that one shudders (to think of eating)..." He was born in Bohemia and 
was a pensioned chief clerk and mining engineer for the Fuggers, the 
important 15th and 16th c. German mercantile, banking, and venture 
capitalist family, (much like the Welsers, who left us cookbooks ;), 
who took over many Medici assest and much of their political power. 
Dernschwam wasn't a cook, but he was a relatively sophisticated man, 
known for his extensive library on many subjects. He may have 
understood the nuances of European food, but some of his journal 
descriptions show his prejudice against Ottoman food.

I found his original recipe on Thomas Gloning's inimitable site:

Item, schaffen flaisch, klain gehagt, des thut man ein loffel
voller auff ein wein plat, wigkelt man zusamen wie ein krapffen.
Daruntter hagt man auch sawere pflawmen, sewdt man allein
im wasser ab, das sol bey inen auch ein guth, herlich gericht
sein vnd hot darzw die wein pletter vberal fail.

Krapffen have been mentioned here recently in the discussion of 
(apple) fritters. From what i have read of German recipes, and heard 
in discussions of krapffen, they are made of a thin layer of dough 
wrapped around a filling. Ranvaig has described them as being 
somewhat like pierogi or ravioli.

I arrived at my translation, based on my own poor miserable knowledge 
of modern German, my struggles with Dernschwan's Bohemian vernacular 
spelling, and consultation with SCA cooks who actually know the 
German language (some on this very list!):

Item, sheep meat, finely chopped, of that one puts a spoon
full on a vine leaf, one wraps/folds (it) together like a krapfen.
Thereunder one also chops sour plums, one boils them only
in water, it is considered by them [Turks] a good, lordly dish
to be and in addition (they) have vine leaves everywhere on sale.

(hot = hat = "have", not the English "hot")

Naturally, i continue to welcome improvements.

I am not certain if the sour plums were in the water, as it appears 
to me to be, or in the dolmas with the meat. They are still put in 
the center of Tabrizi kofta, a giant meatball in a savory sauce 
(Tabriz is the fourth largest city in modern Iran, and the capital of 
East Azerbaijan Province, a city famous for its cuisine and woven 
pile rugs). On the other hand, nowadays, lemon juice and slices are 
often put in the water when cooking dolma - today of grape leaves 
sometimes filled with rice and meat, and sometimes rice only 
(occasionally with dried currants or cinnamon or dill herb or...) - 
possibly replacing those sour plums.

I have found the appropriate plums packaged in my local Persian 
market. They are very small (the size of the plums used in Japanese 
umeboshi), dark yellow fleshed (i have only found them peeled), and 
quite sour. An ingredient in Shirvani's mid-15th c. cookbook and 
mentioned several times in Dernschwam, they are still used today in 
Azerbaijani and Persian cuisines. They are nothing like our much 
larger sweet plums and are even farther from prunes.

Urtatim [that's err-tah-TEEM]
the persona formerly known as Anahita

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list