Growing up in Oman I would always admire the pyramids of stuffed vine leaves and courgettes piled up high. The first time I tried them was when a family friend brought some over during Ramadan. I was amazed at the delicate balance of flavours and decided to learn how to make them.
As I was in India at the time and vine leaves were not readily available I decided to give it a shot using cabbage leaves instead unknown to the fact that in most european and mediterranean countries the humble stuff cabbage dish is a star on its own.
The Greeks call it Lahanodolmades, the Polish call it Golabki, the Romanians call it Sarmale and in the Middle East/East it is called Malfouf. Below is my version of the dish and I hope you enjoy making it as much as I do.
- Lamb Mince- 250 gms ( or chicken mince /mutton mince)
- Rice – ½ cup
- Parsley – 1 bunch – finely chopped
- Tomatoes – 2-3, blend until smooth
- Medium sized Onion -finely chopped
- Baharat – 2 tablespoon**
- Salt to taste
- Cabbage – 1 whole piece
- Olive Oil – 4 tablespoon
- Cumin Powder – 1 tablespoon
- Garlic – 3 cloves
- Lemon- 1
**Baharat means SPICE in Arabic and is a middle eastern spice which is usually a combination of various spices like black pepper, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, paprika, cardamom and nutmeg. If you do not have baharat(like when I was in India), a great alternative is to use a teaspoon each of garam masala, red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and black pepper powder.
For all wanting a spicy kick, you can always add more pepper/chilli powder.
- In a separate bowl, add the mince,rice,parsley,baharat, 2 tablespoon olive oil, onion and salt to taste.
- Then quickly take the cabbage out. You will notice that this time around, it is much easier to separate the leaves without any tear.
- In a big pot , add water and the cumin powder. Once the water starts boiling, drop the whole cabbage into the boiling water and let it blanch for 4-5 minutes.
- The most important thing in this dish is to make sure your cabbage leaves do not tear so you have to be very careful while handling the cabbage leaves. It is very difficult to open the cabbage leaves and separate them all out without a tear.
- Now, lay the cabbage leaf flat out and add a spoonful of the mince mix on one side of the leaf.
- Wrap and roll the leaf making sure the mince mix is well wrapped in the leaf. Repeat this process with all the other cabbage leaves.
- In a separate vessel, add the remaining oil, saute the chopped garlic and add the tomatoes.
- Now, carefully place the rolled cabbage close to each other. You can stack them on top of each other.
- Now add a cup full of water and the lemon juice and cover the pot and let it cook on low sim for 20-25 minutes . This allows the meat to incorporate all the flavours and cook. One can also use mutton mince or chicken mince. Lamb,Chicken and Mutton all have different cooking time. Make sure you adjust your cooking time based on the mince you use.
- Malfouf is ready to eat. Serve with dollop of yogurt and some lemon.