Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

I’ve been lucky enough to have two parents who are both great cooks. I learned a lot from them and grew up to be pretty self sufficient in the kitchen. When I was in Boston a couple weeks ago, my dad was home (he works overseas) and my sister asked him to make Malfoof, which is stuffed cabbage leaves. I grew up eating it, but never learned how to make it, so for today’s post, I had my dad take the reigns and I just took lots of pictures and lots of notes! This recipe feeds an army, so either half it, or plan to feed a lot of people when you make it! 🙂

I recently went to a Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village because I am part Ukrainian on my mom’s side. I really wanted to know what their cuisine was all about. I got a combination of things to try, one of them being stuffed cabbage rolls which were filled with kasha (as in the same stuff in Kashi cereal) smothered in a mushroom gravy. It was interesting and earthy, but I do have to say I like the portability and brightness of these more. Also, it’s what I’m used to ;). But, I am happy to see the same type of food crossing into many of my cultures. Pretty neat! Enjoy!

Malfoof (Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Rice and Steak)

You’ll need:

  • 2 heads of cabbage (Savoy, other variety- read below)
  • 2 cups white short grain rice
  • 1/2 lb sirloin steak or lamb
  • entire head of garlic
  • 3 tbsp cumin
  • 3 tbsp allspice
  • salt and pepper
  • water
  • lemon wedges for garnish

First, we need to wash and prep our cabbage! We used two types here. On the left, savoy and on the right, I’m honestly not sure…I tried to look it up. My dad found it at the Asian supermarket and it was familiar to him as something they also have in the Middle East. Any readers know the answer?? With this type, you need to cut slits at the bottom so the leaves will loosen when you go to boil it later.

With the savoy, you want to pull off the leaves until you get to the center where the leaves are too small to roll. Set those leaves aside.

Get a VERY large pot with water and put the head of cabbage in, bottom down. Let it start to simmer and start to pull the leaves off as they start to wilt. Set aside. You don’t want them to get too boiled, just cooked enough that they’re malleable.

Repeat with the savoy leaves. This will get hot. Use tongs, not bare hands like my dad! Once you have par boiled all of your leaves, set the pot of liquid to the side. You will use this later.

Now comes the fun part of rolling! First you have to prep your leaves. Remove the middle veins and cut the leaves into more workable sizes. Keep the scraps to the side because we will use them to line the pot later.

This is a very large piece my dad can cut into 3 separate rolls.

Removing the middle vein.

With the savoy, just cut the vein from the middle out.

These piles are ready to roll!

Now it’s time to prep the filling. My sister chopped about a 1/2 lb of sirloin steak into very tiny cubes.

Once the meat is cubed, add it to 2 cups of dry white short grain rice. Add in 1.5 tbsp cumin, 1.5 tbsp allspice and salt and pepper to your liking. Mix all together.

Before we start rolling, get the big pot (put the liquid to the side) and line the bottom with cabbage scraps and lots of cloves of garlic.

When rolling, put about a spoonful of mixture onto the cabbage leaf into the center. You want the bumpy side of the leaf on the inside, so what you’re putting your filling on. The outside of the leaf should be smooth. Fold up from the bottom and the sides and roll tightly. Set them to the side.

Once you roll one, you also want to squeeze out the excess liquid. This holds it together better.

Once you have a little pile going, start to stack them in the pot. The general rule of thumb is to put the darker leaves at the bottom because they take longer to cook.

Once you’ve rolled all your leaves, cover with more garlic and scraps and place a plate over it. We are going to cover it in broth and this will help weigh it down so they don’t lift and split open while they cook.

Take the cabbage liquid from earlier and put in the same spices that we put in the rice mixture- cumin, allspice salt and pepper. I would say the same measurements. As you can see, my dad didn’t measure anything or really care to use utensils at this point!

Once combined, pour the liquid over the leaves and bring to the stove top. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the rice is cooked through.

Garnish and serve with lots of lemon and you’ll be very full and satisfied!! This easily serves 8-10 people.

As always- comment, share, enjoy!

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