These days, the hype in Istanbul is (not-so) fine dining restaurants that claim they serve Ottoman palace cuisine. Are all of those places bad? Of course not! Some are very genuine and not overpriced considering the food they serve. But for others, all I can say is “overrated”! Kavun dolmasi or stuffed melon is one of those dishes that existed since the 15th century, maybe even earlier. I guess it is Persian and Armenian influence what made Ottoman cooks combine meat and fruits, which when done right creates an excellent balance of flavor. The trick to this recipe is picking the right size and type of melon, small, round, aromatic variety that is, adding the right amount of spices and nuts and using good quality minced meat (preferably lamb meat ground with a chopping knife) with a good amount of fat content.
50 g + 50 g butter or ghee,
1 onion, chopped finely,
50 g of unsalted fresh almonds, shelled and peeled,
30 g pine nuts,
300 g ground meat,
1 teaspoon of blackpepper,
1 teaspoon of allspice,
1/2 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon,
1 teaspoon of salt,
30 g black currants, dried or fresh,
2 tablespoons of rice,
2 melons, grapefruit-size,
A pinch of salt,
Fresh parsley leaves
Boil rice in salted water. Drain. Set aside. Melt 50 g butter in a non-stick pan. Brown the onions. Add almonds and pine nuts. When roasted, add in the meat. When the meat is cooked and releases its fat add in the spices, then salt. Finally add the black currants and boiled rice and remove from the heat.The stuffing is ready.
Remove melons’ caps, as you see in the pictures. Scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh, discard those. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on the insides of melons. Stuff them with the meat filling.
Place 25g of butter on each dolma you’ve prepared. Put the caps back on the stuffed melons and line them in a baking tray. You might want to brush the melons with melted butter on the outside for a more polished look, but this is optional. Bake the dolmas at 180 degrees Celsius for 35-40 minutes. Serve with fresh parsley leaves, roasted buttered almonds and black currants.