Stuffed Cabbage (Mehshi Malfoof)

I have a  love/hate relationship with  cabbage.  I hate the smell of cabbage when it is cooking in water. Hate it so much that I want to grab it and toss it out the window. Its smell makes me think of Zola or Dickens,  people living in hovels, eating cabbage and water. 

However, when it is stuffed with rice or bulgur, infused with mint and lemon, with the subterranean flavor of garlic and lamb, when a cabbage roll will instantly melt in my mouth so tender are the leaves, why, at this point, I  love it so much!

Unfortunately, outside of Lebanon, I have yet to meet a cabbage that will melt in one’s mouth; cabbage leaves remain tough or chewy no matter how long one cooks them; so I will just boil  and stuff  the whole cabbage and not bother with the individual leaves.

INGREDIENTS: For 2 small cabbages, feeding 4 people

  • 1 cup of coarse bulgur (#4), soaked in 3 cups of boiling water for one hour until it has swelled 100%.
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 onion, minced and 1 onion, whole
  • Spices: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper to taste; 1/2 cup of  dried mint. (can also use cilantro pesto, or any herb that you like)
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled; mash half the cloves with salt and keep the other half whole.
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses (optional)

TWO SAUCES:

  1. You can cook the cabbage in a tomato-pomegranate molasses sauce.
  2. You can cook the cabbage in a lemon-olive oil and mint based sauce.

METHOD:

  1. In a bowl, mix the stuffing ingredients: bulgur, onion, mint (or cilantro), spices such as pepper, allspice, cinnamon, sumac, cumin. Add the garbanzo beans and taste. Add some lemon juice and olive oil to the stuffing.
  2. Boil the whole cabbage in a pot filled halfway with water and a small onion until the cabbage is tender.  Remove from the pot and let it cool. Cut the core with a sharp knife and remove.
  3. Stuff the cabbage, cover the opening with all the outside leaves and tie with kitchen twine.
  4. Place in a pot, add the sauce of your choice and simmer for 30 minutes or so.
  5. Serve warm.

Tomato-pomegranate molasses sauce:

In a bowl or in the same pot mix about one tablespoon of tomato paste with the cabbage cooking water, add one or two tablespoon of pomegranate molasses; add some whole garlic cloves to the sauce and a couple of tablespoons of dried mint.

Lemon-olive oil and mint sauce:

In a bowl or in the same pot, add to the cabbage cooking water the juice of two lemons, about 1/2 cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of dried mint. Add a few garlic cloves to the sauce as well, mashed or whole.

NOTE: I prefer the lemon-olive oil mint sauce; first of all, this is the traditional sauce for stuffed cabbage leaves in our community; tomato-based sauces overpower the taste of cabbage too much. Your call!

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23 Comments

  1. Posted February 28, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    ergonomics /er·go·nom·ics/ (er″go-nom´iks) the science relating to humans and their work, including the factors affecting the efficient use of human energy.

    I’ve really haven;t had any problem with the cabbage up here. I can relate to how you feel about cabbage (used to be that way). More exotic herb & spices combos here…a taste tour for sure.

  2. Posted February 28, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Never seen or heard anyone doing stuffed cabbage before,sounds really good and looks beautiful…

  3. Posted February 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Although we make lahanodolmades in Greece, cabbage stuffed with minced meat and rice, I don’t cook them very often.

  4. Posted February 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I love cabagge and this looks soo yumm!!

  5. Posted March 1, 2010 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Just love these sort of stuffed cabbages, yummy!!

  6. Posted March 1, 2010 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    A healthy dish! So flavorful looking!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  7. Posted March 1, 2010 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Wow!!! this stuffed cabbage looks so cool! Awesome!

  8. Posted March 1, 2010 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    J’aime bien tout ce que tu cuisines chere amie. Ca l’aire tellement bon ce plat. Merci pour les etapes, ca aide beaucoup pour realiser ce genre de recette.
    Magnifique , je suis contente de decouvrir ton blog.
    Bisous

  9. Posted March 1, 2010 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I really like the idea of stuffing the whole cabbage! Who has time to deal with each individual leaf?

  10. Posted March 1, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    So funny, I totally agree about the smell of cooking cabbage – disgusting. But then if you make a good dish, you’re so glad you put up with it. I wonder what kind of cabbage it is that you get in Lebanon? Is it like Napa cabbage I wonder? Well, in an case you have turned a necessity into a virtue because this looks great, I can just smell the spices in the filling, yum.

  11. Posted March 1, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I like stuffed cabbage with rice and meat… so far I didn’t have any problem cooking them, I do cook/steam the whole head in hot water, then take the leaves out and stuff them.
    I never used a vegetarian version before.. good recipe for Lent, I am trying to eat vegetarian food during the week and eat meats on Sunday.

    I bookmarket the recipe .

  12. Posted March 1, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Hey..this is very new..but looks wonderful . Can be a good main dish !!

  13. Posted March 1, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Oh my, my mother-in-law makes fantastic stuffed cabbage (usually with bulgur and meat), and I too, would rather eat it than smell it at home. When I need a cabbage fix, I make coleslaw salad. I love your recipes. Thanks for commenting on my blog Love, Rose. It was great to see a new face there! xo

  14. Posted March 1, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    We make stuffed cabbage in my home country but also here in Algeria – but neither are like this! I love all the interesting flavours here Joumana …. I am going to try this out! Do you have to use savoy cabbage or will any do?

  15. Joumana
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Heni, you can use any white cabbage,I used baby savoy cabbage because I thought it looked cute!

  16. Posted March 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    This is comfort food at its best! I love cooking this at home – I have another recipe in which I use a saffron infused sauce in coconut milk, lime and finely chopped onions while the cabbage leaves are stuffed with a selection of different rices and cashew nuts and then cooked in the oven. The beauty of this type of dish is that one can prepare them hours in advance so they are perfect for entertaining.

  17. Posted March 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree about cabbage, I like to eat it , but the cooking smell is overwhelming. This looks like a very tasty dish.
    Mimi

  18. Posted March 1, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Your stuffed cabbage is really beautiful! I love your method of stuffing the whole cabbage, I have got to try that! Both sauces sound really delicious — I would love to try the tomato-pomegranate molasses sauce, since I’ve never had it.

  19. dana
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I love the taste of stuffed cabbage. I have cooked it only twice so far since it usually takes me forever to get the leaves stuffed. I also end up with lots of broken leaves …

    I like the idea of stuffing the whole cabbage. I also like the stuffing you have used. I have never had it this way before. Another recipe to bookmark and try sooner rather than later. Thanks as always for these yummy ideas.

  20. Posted March 1, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    What a smart way to stuff cabbage.Love it! And your Dickens comment made me laugh. ;-)

  21. Posted March 2, 2010 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    I’m sure a taste of this stuffed cabbage would help me forget all about the stink-fest it creates.
    Great tip on the baby cabbage.

  22. Amatuer Cook
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    I mainly wanted to comment on how BEAUTIFUL that first picture looks! What a treat for the eyes. If only I could end up with it looking that way.

  23. Posted February 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this information for my mission.

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