An all-time-favorite winter/fall food. Although making cabbage rolls takes a bit more time, it’s worth every minute. Cabbage leaves are stuffed with rice and meat and cooked in garlic-lemon stock. Cabbage ribs are kept to prepare a very delicious mutabal on the side.
- 1 cabbage
- 2 cups medium-grain rice
- 1/2 pound ground beef/lamb
- 3 heads garlic
- Juice of 3 medium lemons
- 2 potatoes
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1/2 teaspoon Bharat (Syrian Spice Mix)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste For cabbage mutabal
- 3 tablespoon plain yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon tahini
- 2 cloves of mashed garlic
- Salt to taste
- Wash the cabbage and trim its stem. Preparing the cabbage leaves is the longest step so you can prepare the stuffing while doing it. Fill a big pot (larger than the cabbage) with water half-wise, then heat. When the water starts to boil, add the cabbage stem-side down and turn the heat down to low. The goal is to loosen cabbage leaves with heat and be able to take them off one after the other. Check every minute or so to see if you can take some off. This also depends on the type of cabbage. Do not let the leaves cook. You just want them to loosen up and strip them off.
- When all cabbage leaves are stripped, blanch them for a couple of minutes in boiling water until they are tender and rollable (but not mushy. You just want to be able to roll them). Avoid boiling them a lot so they start to cook.
- Drain cabbage leaves promptly and rinse with very cold water, then set aside to cool.
- To prepare the stuffing, boil three cups of water. Add the boiled water to the rice in a big bowl and set aside. After 7 minutes, wash the rice in cold water and drain. add ground meat, ghee, half a teaspoon of salt and spices and mix well (yes, you can use your hands!)
- To stuff the cabbage, cut the large leaves in half or more. Pieces should not be larger than 6’*6′. Discard the ribs if they are tough and won’t allow you to roll the leaf. You do not need to cut smaller leaves. Don’t throw away the tough ribs. Instead dice them and throw them in the pot with the rolls.
- Take one cabbage leaf and spread it on a tray with rough side up. Add 1-2 tablespoons of stuffing to the leaf in a line parallel to the leaf ribs. Leave about one inch of both sides of the leaf without stuffing. This is to make sure that stuffing does not escape during the cooking process.
- After you add the stuffing, roll the leaf tightly and put it aside. Do not fold the sides. Repeat for all remaining leaves.
- Clean the potatoes and slice them into half an inch slices (you do not have to peel them), then arrange at the bottom of a big pot.
- Wash the garlic and separate the cloves. Then arrange the cabbage rolls on top of the potatoes sprinkling the unpeeled garlic cloves in between the layers. Don’t forget to throw in the diced cabbage ribs.
- Cover with water and add cumin, salt and pepper. Press the rolls with a little weight just enough to keep the rolls from floating. You can use a cooking stone or a couple of ceramic dishes. Cover the pot leaving a little hole for steam to escape from. After the water boils, turn the heat down to medium low and leave it to simmer.
- Check for doneness after 30-45 minutes. You need to add lemon juice 15 minutes before the cabbage is done. (you can take one out and taste if the rice is done).
- Serve the cabbage rolls hot and garnish with garlic gloves and potato slices. Syrians like to pop the gloves in their moth and suck the sweet paste. You can also serve a bowl of cabbage stock on the side.
- With the cabbage ribs, you can prepare a very delicious cabbage mutabal. Just add plain yogurt, tahini, mashed garlic, and salt to the diced ribs. Mix well and serve with flat bread next to cabbage rolls.
Makes 4-5 servings
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