Thursday, 13 December 2012

Lettuce Leaves Stuffed with Sea Bass - Levrek Sarma

I wasn't feeling well last week like so many of my friends and probably many of you.  I decided that the only way to beat it was to stay home and rest.

So there I was at home, .... finally I got a bit bored and thought to myself: I know what, this is a good opportunity to try those fish sarma or in this case, levrek or sea bass rolled up in lettuce leaves, a very different kind of dolma, that I'd seen in a new cookbook. Usually, you see, it's either vine leaves or cabbage leaves that are used. Using lettuce leaves is a breakaway! The photo was enticing and the ingredients most engaging, plus we were expecting some very dear friends for dinner the next night who I knew would love this ....

lettuce leaves stuffed with sea bass - levrek sarma

TT went out and bought the most amazing sea bass. We are so lucky as we have a new fishmonger at the end of the road so he's trying very hard. Look at these fillets: aren't they beautiful?

he bought far more than we needed for this recipe so
I froze the remainder

Now, the recipe I had turned out not to be very good: the idea was fantastic but per se, it most certainly wasn't for the novice cook. But with all my years in Turkey of stuffing this and that, I managed to adapt it and was exceedingly pleased with the results not to mention the look, and most of all, the taste! I will tell you exactly what I did, don't worry:

Ingredients for Lettuce Leaves Stuffed with Sea Bass - Levrek Sarması
Adapted from a recipe in Cıbalıkapı by Behzat Şahin

Serves 6

a  large half-filled saucepan of boiling water
Large lettuce leaves - the recipe specifies 12 romaine/marul leaves but I ended up using 30 of a larger curly-leafed lettuce!!!
2 x 400g fillets sea bass/levrek, finely chopped
1 long sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1 cup  finely chopped fresh dill/dereotu
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley/maydonoz
3 finely chopped spring onions/taze soğan
grated peel of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup lightly boiled rice
1/4 tsp allspice/yenibahar
a pinch cumin/kimyon
a pinch curry powder/köri
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil 


  • Add the lettuce leaves a few at a time to the boiling water, cook about 30 secs, remove and cool. DO NOT USE ROMAINE AS THE CENTRAL STALK IS TOO TOUGH. USE A LETTUCE WITH SOFT LARGE LEAVES THAT WILL ROLL EASILY.

this is what I started with: can you see the stalk? I couldn't
possibly use the leaf to roll anything: not worth it

so I dumped that romaine/marul and luckily had this curly-leafed lettuce just
sitting in the fridge and it  happened to be organic to boot.  It was perfect!

  • Place finely chopped fish in a container big enough to hold all ingredients. Add spring onions, parsley, dill, red pepper, garlic and lemon peel.

mix all those wonderful fresh  ingredients well ....

  • In a separate bowl, combine the orange juice, spices and seasoning with the lightly boiled rice and half the olive oil. Mix well. YOU WILL HAVE A BEAUTIFUL MIXTURE.

combining the rice mixture with the fish

  • Take 1 lettuce leaf. Place veined side upwards with the stalk end away from you. If the stalk is tough, cut it out as it will make rolling difficult. Take a spoonful of the mixture and, folding from the sides first, roll up to the smaller end so that the filling is secured.

about to roll .... actually, I see the leaf here is the wrong way round!
No matter ....fold the sides in firm ..

they roll beautifully as you can see ....

  •  Give the roll a light squeeze at the end so that it retains its shape nicely. IF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH SİGARA BÖREK, THE TECHNIQUE IS IDENTICAL. Layer a few not-so-good leaves on the bottom of your pan  JUST LIKE YOU WOULD FOR ANY OTHER VEGETABLE DOLMA so they won't stick. 
  • Layer your filled leaves ideally in one layer in a circular pattern in your pan. Add the boiling water and remaining olive oil, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 25 mins.

they look swaddled, don't they?

  • When cooked, uncover and let cool. Serve at room temperature garnished with lemon slices. 

beautiful delicious stuffed lettuce leaf fish sarma!

Delicious!! They are absolutely worth the effort! Not perhaps a family dish but certainly
one for your favourite guests! Serve as part of a meze spread or indeed as a separate course
all on its own.

Afiyet olsun!