Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cabbage Rolls with a Hint of Reminiscing

Shannon has requested a recipe for Lebanese cabbage rolls (Malfouf) so that she can cook up a feast for some friends.  I first watched Shan and Liam's grandmother (Olga) (Morney to her grandchildren) prepare these in my kitchen about 40 years ago.  Hunting through some old things, I found this delightful photo of her and her grandchildren..Shan and Liam are the youngest ones:
Olga never used a was all in her head.  I guess she had learnt from her mother who had fled Lebanon in the early 1900s.  Confronted with Shan's request for a 'written recipe', I felt rather daunted as to how to explain the process.  You need a very good cabbage..a nice big that that you have lots of lovely leaves in which to roll your mixture.  Anyway here version of Morney's cabbage rolls:


1 very special cabbage
 1 cup rice
1 finely chopped onion
500 grms of minced lamb
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn allspice
You mix this all together (clean hands particularly good for this)
loads of garlic
lemon juice

Then the fun begins:

 Boil a big pot of water..and plunge the cabbage leaves in until they are soft and pliable.
Cut the leaves into squares (that's why you need a nice big cabbage) and place some mince mixture in the square, fold in the ends and make a neat little parcel.

(Boy I didn't think it was so hard to write a recipe!) Before you do the rolling bit, you need to have another saucepan (if you have one)..and line it with cabbage leaves..this will prevent all sorts of bad things happening.  Place the little rolls in the cabbage lined saucepan..pack them quite tightly.

But I have forgotten one extremely important need to place lots and lots and lots of unpeeled cloves of garlic in amongst the cabbage rolls.  Don't be timid with this. Top the saucepan up with water..add some salt.

With the tomatoes, scoop out the fleshy bits which you put on top of the rolls. I try to use as many tomatoes as I have people coming to dinner.  Another forgotten step...reserve some of the mince mixture and stuff the tomato shells.  The stuffed tomatos (with their little cut off tops back on) go on top of the cabbage rolls. (This may have been an "Olga" extra.)  Cover with a tight fitting lid and gently simmer for about one hour..then add the lemon juice and simmer for another 30 minutes or so.  Remember, just a gentle don't want to burn the bottom layers of the cabbage rolls.

If all else fails, check the internet, sure to be hundreds of versions on there. And I can't wait for feedback from Shannon or whoever else dares to follow my recipe.  Now I know why celebrity chefs get paid so much money!


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