I’m thrilled to share with you a delightful and traditional recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls, a dish that brings back fond memories of my time in Jordan. In the Middle East, we affectionately call these rolls ‘Malfouf’ in Arabic, and they’re a beloved delicacy often enjoyed for both lunch and dinner. These cabbage rolls are gently cooked in a flavorful garlicky lemon broth, offering a light yet vibrant taste. The star of the show is the Heshwa stuffing, typically made by mixing rice, ground meat like lamb and some spices , creating a delicious blend that makes these cabbage rolls with ground lamb a household favorite.
It’s worth noting that there are various regional variations of this recipe. The one I’ll be sharing is a simple rendition I learned from my mom and aunts. Other versions may involve sautéing the meat before stuffing or incorporating tomatoes on top or below the rolls, or even simmering the stuffed cabbage in chicken or lamb broth. Feel free to experiment and personalize this dish to your liking. And if you’re a fan of cabbage don’t miss my recipe for oven-roasted cabbage with tahini sauce; it’s a delightful option.
Key Ingredients for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Now, let’s dive into the essential ingredients that make stuffed cabbage rolls so flavorful and comforting.
- Cabbage: For this recipe, it’s best to use regular cabbage with wide leaves and fewer stems. The cabbage leaves will serve as the wrapper for the delicious filling.
- Short Grain Rice: Short-grain rice is the ideal choice for stuffing. To prepare it, I recommend washing and soaking it in warm water for about 30 minutes and then draining it well. This helps ensure the rice cooks to perfection.
- Ground Lamb or Beef (or Both): The choice of ground meat, whether lamb, beef, or a combination of both, adds a rich and savory flavor to the stuffing, making it hearty and satisfying.
- Garlic: Traditionally, whole garlic cloves are used, cleaned but not peeled. Some are placed at the bottom of the pot, while others are added on top, infusing the dish with a delightful garlic aroma and taste.
- Fresh Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is a key ingredient that adds a delightful, slightly tangy, and refreshing flavor to the dish, making it a bit lemony.
- Olive Oil and Ghee: A combination of olive oil and ghee is used to make the hashweh (stuffing). However, if you prefer one over the other, using just olive oil or ghee is perfectly fine.
- Spices: The spice blend includes common seasonings like salt, pepper, baharat (a Middle Eastern spice blend), and cumin. These spices bring depth and warmth to the dish, enhancing its overall flavor profile.
Tips for Making Perfect Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Creating the best stuffed cabbage rolls requires attention to detail and a few tricks up your sleeve:
- Prepping the Cabbage: To ensure even cooking, turn the cabbage head several times while it simmers. Once done, cut or pull away the leaves, and have a colander ready to drain them.
- Removing Stems: On larger leaves, it’s crucial to remove the thick stem. For smaller leaves, thin out the stem without cutting through, minimizing waste.
- Utilize the Cabbage Heart: Don’t discard the cabbage heart; either stuff it and tuck it between the rolls or save it for a salad later.
- Don’t Overstuff: Leave some room for the uncooked rice to expand, which varies depending on the leaf’s size. Larger leaves need about a tablespoon of filling, while smaller ones require less.
- Allow Resting: After cooking, let the stuffed cabbage rolls rest to absorb and settle the flavors.
- Layering with Garlic: Add whole garlic cloves between the layers for an extra burst of flavor.
- Freeze Extra Stuffing: If you have leftover stuffing, freeze it in a Ziplock bag for future use.
- Lemon Juice: Add lemon juice during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Mix it with some cabbage water and pour it over the rolls for a delightful citrusy touch.
- Use a Heavy Bottom Pot: Since the cooking time is relatively long, opt for a heavy-bottomed pot to ensure even cooking and prevent burning.
Can I make this dish vegetarian?
You can easily make these stuffed cabbage rolls vegetarian by substituting the meat mixture with a vegetable mixture with ingredients like tomato, parsley, onions, and rice. The vegetable mixture is similar to the filling of stuffed grape leaves.
What To Server With Stuffed Cabbage?
Serve these Middle Eastern stuffed cabbage rolls with complementary sides. A traditional Arabian Baladi salad pairs well. It’s a mix of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and parsley, with olive oil and lemon. This crisp, refreshing salad brings a bright contrast to the savory cabbage rolls.
Pair your stuffed cabbage rolls with Middle Eastern or Greek-inspired salads. Fattoush salad offers crispy pita chips, fresh veggies, and a zesty dressing. Alternatively, opt for a Greek salad loaded with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, red onions, feta cheese, and a tangy vinaigrette. These refreshing sides complement the rich, savory flavors of the stuffed cabbage rolls perfectly.
Tell Me How I’m Doing?
Have you made these traditional Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Rice And Ground Lamb? Love to hear from you! feel free to drop me a comment below.