Thrion ex Oryza

At the intersection of two of my hobbies lies the "Roman Cookery", a cookbook by the UK classics scholar and chef Mark Grant. After working extensively with ancient texts on cooking, he not only translated the recipes, but adapted them to the modern kitchen.

The following recipe, Thrion ex Oryza, greatly resembles a modern Greek dolma. The Romans could not work with sugar, tomatoes, or peppers, but the resemblance and taste of thrion to a classic, vegetarian dolma is striking. Grant extracted the recipe from an ancient commentator on Aristophanes Knights.

(Thrion, by the way, means fig, as the filling was originally wrapped in fig leaves, not grape leaves. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to use fig leaves in their test kitchen.)

I have adapted this recipe slightly from Michael Grant's presentation, to make it easier for the American vegetarian. I use vegetable stock, and I think they taste better dipped in honey, rather than sautéed in it.

~25 grape leaves*
100 g Basmati rice
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz (1/2 pint or 237mL) Vegetable stock
1 egg
100 g goat cheese
Sea salt

Add the olive oil to a frying pan
Brown the rice over medium heat (about 8 minutes)
Add 16 oz (1 pint, 473 mL) of boiling water and salt
Cover, reduce to simmer, and wait about 20 minutes for all the water to be absorbed

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg and cheese
Add the cooked rice and mix thoroughly

The fun part: rolling up the grape-leaf packets. There's an art to this (which I don't have).
On a flat surface, lay flat a grape leaf. Take a spoonful of filling and place it at the center of the widest part of the leave. If the leaf is too small, overlap two leaves to make the surface bigger. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll the whole thing towards the shortest end, tucking in the filling as you go.

Place all the packets in a casserole
Pour hot vegetable stock over the packets
Cover and bake at 170°C (330°F) for 1 hour

To serve:
These are delicious both hot and cold. I like eating them dipped in warm honey. The honey may also be drizzled over the thria. Serve with Greek kalamata olives and rustic or wheat bread. I am not a food photographer, but trust me when I say these are delicious! The last time we made these it was a double batch, and they went fast.

* Grape leaves in brine can be bought at most specialty grocery stores, but if you're lucky enough to have a grape vine, here's how to prepare them: Select green, tender leaves that are about the size of your palm (or larger) and cut their stems off (The later in the season, the more tough the leaves become). Steam, covered, for about 2 minutes (no longer!). Let cool before using.

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At 9/20/08, 2:35 PM, Blogger Michael Stone said...

I hit you with a 'I Love your bLog!' award, over on my lj. You should be so proud. (c:


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