Middle Eastern spiced meat and rice, rolled into green cabbage leaves then finished in the oven. A recipe adapted from my Syrian mother-in-law.
These cabbage rolls are hands down one of our favorite meals. It actually is Ben’s favorite, which is why I made an entire Middle Eastern feast for him for Valentine’s Day last year. And, although it does appear in our typical meal rotation quite often, we also still think it’s pretty special to have it on Christmas day.
This recipe originated in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, as what she calls Cabbage Mashe (“mashay”). She taught me how to make this about 10 years ago when Ben and I were dating. In her version, she chops up the cabbage and boils then steams it with the meat and rice all at once in a large pot. It’s then served in bowls.
As simple as her recipe was, I kept messing it up…mainly ending up with crunchy rice. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to re-invent it into cabbage rolls and pre-cook the rice before adding to the meat mixture. This is the way we’ve been eating them ever since.
Cumin and allspice are key ingredients here, do not leave them out. You can find many variations of Middle Eastern spiced meat, so use your favorite. Also, I believe it’s more traditional to make thinner rolls, but we like them fat. The recipe below reflects the version we love and eat all the time!
- 1 medium head green cabbage , washed
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 cup cooked long grain rice
- 1/2 cup butter , melted
- 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- Salt and Pepper , to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a casserole dish with cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Cut a circle around the stem of the cabbage and remove the core. Carefully place head of cabbage into the boiling water. After about 1-2 minutes, the top leaf will come off easily when tugged with tongs. Remove from the water and transfer to a large clean work surface. Wait another minute and remove the next outer leaf. Continue until you have 10 cabbage leaves removed. Turn off the heat, and discard the rest of the cabbage or reserve for another use. Pat the leaves dry with paper towels. Cut out the thick part of the rib (creating a "V") from the bottom of each leaf, but don't cut more than a third of the way into the leaf.
In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, melted butter, cooked rice, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper. I use my hands to get it fully combined. With the stem side of the cabbage leaf facing you, divide the meat mixture evenly over the center of each leaf. Fold the bottom edges over the mixture and then fold the sides over and roll tight. Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Serve immediately with roasted vegetables, Pita bread and tabbouleh for a full Middle Eastern feast.