Stuffing different kind of vegetables, including vegetable leaves, with rice and meat is a distinctive characteristic of East Mediterranean cuisines. Tens or maybe hundreds of various dishes are based on this same concept.. We have stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, stuffed eggplants, stuffed tomatoes, onions, potatoes, grape leaves, cucumber, carrots and much more! Actually I can’t think of any type of vegetable leaves that hasn’t been stuffed, wrapped, rolled in a way or another.
Stuffed cabbage rolls (malfouf or mahshi malfouf) is not only one of these dishes, it is one of the most flavored and delicious options among them all. At least from my taste buds point of view. The Arabic name of cabbage is “malfouf”, however this word originally means wrapped up and that explains where the name of cabbage comes from.
The recipe that I am sharing today is the typical and original Palestinian way of making stuffed cabbage rolls. It is easy, simple and delicious.
- 3 kg cabbage head
- 2 cups rice, thoroughly rinsed
- 1/2 kg ground lamb, minced
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon allspices
- 2 tablespoon salt, divided
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 heads of garlic, peeled and largely chopped
- 1 cube of chicken stock
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
Remove damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Using long knife, cut the core off of the cabbage head (in order to ease the peeling process). Carefully, peel away cabbage leaves one by one. Place cabbage leaves in a deep pot of boiling water (divide them into batches). Keep them in the boiling water under medium heat for about 2 minutes, then flip the batch of leaves over and leave them for another 2 minutes until they become tender. Set them aside to let drain.
For stuffing: in a bowl, add rinsed rice, meat, cumin, allspices, 1 tablespoon salt, and vegetable oil. Mix altogether until well combined.
For rolling process: cut each cabbage leaf into about 10 cm X 15 cm sheets (that may take different shapes according to the leaf shape). Cut off large stalks of each leaf and place them in the bottom of a large cooking pot. Place each sheet on a smooth surface. Add about one tablespoon of stuffing to each sheet and then spread it across the sheet leaving some space in the edges. Roll sheet forward toward stuffing (it’s okay to leave the roll edges open). Squeeze the roll using your hand and place it in the pot. Repeat for each sheet until you fill half of the pot.
Add half quantity of the chopped garlic. Continue to layer up the pot with cabbage rolls. Add the remaining amount of garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, and cube of stock. Cover cabbage rolls by water (same level of the rolls) and place the pot over a medium heat until water is boiling. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to the minimum and let simmer for about 45 minutes until the rice is fully cooked. Add lemon juice 15 minutes before cooking time is up. Serve hot with extra lemon chunks.
Note: to enjoy the full flavor and moisture of stuffed cabbage rolls, flip the pot over onto a large serving plate.