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RECIPE: Island Dolmades from Vanuatu

A Portuguese national from Macau and Aussie expat, MARCUS XAVIER runs a cooking school and B&B in Efate, Vanuatu. Here, he gives us a locally-inspired version of classic dolmades.

For this dish, you can prepare everything the day before and leave it in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.





The Dolmades

  • 12 island cabbage leaves, cabbage leaves or outer spinach leaves
  • 2 cups of cooked rice
  • 250 grams of ground beef
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 2 sprigs of fresh dill
  • Salt & pepper


The Tomato Sauce

  • 1 x 400 gram can of whole tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Serves: 4



- To make the rice filling: in a large bowl, use your hands to mix the cooked rice with the raw ground beef, herbs and finely diced onions. Season the rice filling with salt and ground white pepper. Set aside.

- Prepare the leaves by removing the stems or any larger veins that will prevent from rolling the leaves easily. Blanch them in boiling water for about 10 seconds. If using regular cabbage blanch until tender and you can roll them.

- On the bench lay the leaves out. In your hands roll up approximately 2 tablespoons of the rice filling (or divide it into the number of leaves you have) and roll it up in the leaf. Set them up on a plate and prepare the tomato sauce.

- Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes into a pulp. It can be as fine or coarse as you prefer.  Add the crushed garlic, oregano and nutmeg and set aside. Best to do this an hour or so before cooking so that the flavours can develop.

- In a heavy bottomed pan, add the oil and heat it up to take the chill from it. Pour in your tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes, just enough to take the rawness from it. Add the wine and sugar, bring to the boil and cook until it forms a loose sauce. Approx. 5-7 minutes.

- Lay the dolmades in the sauce and spoon some sauce over them. Put the lid on and cook for 15–20 minutes. Check every 5 minutes to spoon more sauce. If it gets too thick add some water, or more wine!

- Remember to taste as you go with this dish and adjust your seasoning as you require.


Serve up in the pan ... Allow three dolmades per serve. Marcus likes to give them a final sprinkle of olive oil to give them some shine. Enjoy this with a chilled glass of pinot gris.


About Papaya Loco - Tucked away in an old copra plantation, Papaya Loco is located on 1.6kms of pristine, privately held beachfront, surrounded by palm trees and coral coves. Marcus is the chef and runs cooking classes among the scent of saffron and bay leaves, a glass of Papaya Loco’s own special tropical sangria, and some mambo tunes.

About Marcus - Marcus is an Aussie expat who has been living in Vanuatu for the past few years, running private B&B Papaya Villa on the East coast of Vanuatu’s main island of Efate. 


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Written by: Traveltalk
Published: 12 August 2020

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