Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cabbage Rolls

Some recent chat between myself and Tankeduptaco at Food for Thought has revealed a mutual admiration for cabbage rolls. We come from different traditions, however – his from his good wife’s native Poland and mine from my ex partner’s Mediterranean heritage. But cabbage rolls seem to be a universal comfort food, following in the tradition of many foodstuffs prepared and rolled up in something, to later reveal an exciting and nutritious gift within.

You can find the luscious-sounding eastern European version on Food for Thought here, and what follows is my version, based on both Greek and Lebanese recipes, and was declared ‘better than Nana’s’ by my previous in-laws. Luckily Nana was by that time deceased and didn’t have to suffer the ignominy of some ring-in Aussie trouncing her cabbage roll prowess.

First, catch your cabbage. If you can get Savoy, so much the better. To prepare the cabbage for rolls, follow ‘Taco’s description (see link above) of boiling the beast (I tend to use water rather than stock, but it doesn't matter too much) and taking off the blanched leaves, ready to lay out for the filling, which is made from...

1 kg lamb mince
1 large or 2 smaller onions, finely chopped and fried ‘til golden in a little olive oil
¾ cup of uncooked long grain rice (basmati is good for this)
3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint
Ditto of dill
Ditto of flat leaf parsley
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ nutmeg, grated
1 large or 2 small Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
Lots of fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

Mix all the above ingredients with your hands so everything is well combined. Lay the wilted cabbage leaves out flat and cut the large stiff rib out of the centre. The larger leaves can be cut in half. Use the very tough outer leaves (blanched) to line the base and sides of a large, high sided saucepan. Place a few heaped tablespoons of the meat mixture in the centre bottom of the leaf, rollover the bottom flap and fold in the sides, then roll it up to secure the parcel. Lay the roll seam side down in the pot, and continue rolling and placing the rest into the pot, making sure you pack them in very tightly. You will have about 2 layers, perhaps with a few extra on top. This mix should make about 30 rolls.

1 - 1 ½ litres of hot chicken stock
½ cup of white wine
50 g butter.

Pat the top of the rolls with small pieces of butter and pour over the wine. Lay more tough outer leaves of cabbage on top and pour on a litre or so of hot stock to just come to the top of where the rolls sit in the pan. Cover the rolls in the pan with an upturned plate to stop them floating and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Place over the heat and bring to the simmer, then simmer gently for 1 ½ - 2 hours. When the cooking is finished, remove the rolls to a warm serving platter, strain the cooking juices and reduce them by half to for a sauce to serve with the rolls.
4 cloves garlic
Sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
½- ¾ cup olive oil
Ground black pepper

In a mortar, crush the garlic with the salt to form a sticky paste. Add in some oil and mix thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and pepper and add in the rest of the olive oil until the dressing reaches a slightly emulsified consistency and is still garlicky and sharp. Serve this at the table to drizzle on the cabbage rolls.


Blogger Julia said...

I grew up with cabbage rolls (Russian style). I thought I never wanted to see one again, but these look yum!

10:46 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

There were yum Julia! You should make the Russian variety and post it up too.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Ange said...

Well I think I will definitely have to do my family Polish version soon too - similar to Tankeduptaco's version, have been meaning to crank them out for ages & am now having serious cravings after seeing the 2 of you make them

9:57 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

When you do, I'll link your post in too Ange!

12:41 PM  
Blogger Pille said...

I grew up with Estonian style cabbage roll, and you just reminded me that it's been far far too long since I made some:)
Beautiful pictures, BTW!

6:18 AM  
Blogger L&coolj said...

Every memory of winter family gatherings in my native Bosnia inevitably brings cabbage rolls (sarma) to mind. The pungent smell of pickled cabbage, which is what we used to use for the dish over there, made sure that I hated it as a kid. However, with time it has become one of the best comfort dishes on a cold winter's day. Just give me a dollop of mash with sarma and I'm happy :)

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:46 AM  

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