Cabbage rolls “malfoof”

stuffed cabbage rolls

The weather forecast promises a winter that is the coldest in 70 years and December delivers! After 3 days of none stop rain and snow, all you crave is comfort food.Something warm, that transports you back to your mum’s kitchen. You are a kid again, at your family’s dinner table, hungry, cold and a little gloomy but  the hot steam coming off the plate that mum set before you with a smile makes you feel better just by looking at it.


Stuffed cabbage rolls is one of those recipes. Something my mum used to make on cold winter days. The cabbage leaves are neatly rolled and then cooked to perfection. They are so tender that they nearly melt into your mouth, the slow cooking brings out a subtle sweetness in them that pairs beautifully with the fresh tang of lemon juice and the faint garlic note from the garlic cloves nestled between them.

As much as I love cabbage rolls, I have never made them all by myself! Mum always makes them and invites us over to enjoy them :) So when the November challenge was announced. I bought a head of cabbage and called my mum. I asked her for a private cabbage rolling lesson . We made the rice and meat stuffed cabbage leaves I am posting today. I had planned on making the vegetarian version which uses bulgur and similar flavors as yalanji (vegetarian stuffed vine leaves) but as usual, I ran out of time. Hopefully I will post that recipe soon.

little bird

November’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge had us on a roll! Olga from challenged us to make stuffed cabbage rolls using her Ukrainian heritage to inspire us. Filled with meat, fish or vegetables, flexibility and creativity were the name of the game to get us rolling

Middle eastern cabbage rolls

Stuffed cabbage leaves

  •  one large cabbage
  • 5-8 garlic cloves 

For the stuffing:

  • 300 grams ground lamb or beef
  • 1 cup medium-grain rice or Egyptian rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon all spice
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

How to pre-cook cabbage leaves and prepare them for stuffing

Using a large knife, make vertical cuts around the core. vertical cuts Place your cabbage in a pot. Pour enough cold water to submerge the whole cabbage. Remove cabbage from the water then  place the pot with the water in it on the stove top. This way you will know exactly how much water you’ll need without risking boiling water overflowing when you add the cabbage to the water. Bring water to a boil. Stick your knife or grill fork firmly into the core center part of the cabbage and carefully place your cabbage into the boiling water, core-side up. Lower the heat, you want the water to simmer not boil. step11 Be cautious, try not to  splash hot water on yourself. Use your knife to keep the cabbage submerged in the boiling water. step 2 Let cabbage cook for about 5 minutes. Try to separate the leaves without taking the cabbage out of the simmering water.This helps reduce the splashing of hot water step 3 To separate the leaves right in the pot, left the leaf at its thickest end and lift cabbage with your grill fork just a little bit, so as to release the bottom part of the leaf. While the whole process seems intimidating, it’s actually easy . Once you have separated the outer leaves, take the whole cabbage out of water. Remover the leaves you have already separated. To check if your leaves are done, try folding one, it should not snap or crack how to know your leaves are ready Make new cuts around the core and place the cabbage back into the hot water and back on the stove for 5 more minutes and then repeat the steps – When you reach the layers where leaves are too small and too bumpy, stop the process of separating leaves and save the remaining cabbage to use elsewhere (soups, stews or salads). – When leaves are cool enough to handle, cut off the tough ribs on each leaf.Do not discard the ribs, you will use them to line your pan. remove ribs   Try to cut the leaves into even pieces that are as regular as possible Now, the leaves are ready for filling. All these steps can be done a day or two ahead of time

Prepare the stuffing

Mix the rice with the minced meat, salt, spices and olive oil

How to stuff and roll cabbage leaves

steps new

Place a little stuffing on one of the long ends of your cut cabbage leaf.

Spread it to form a line

Fold one of the short edges of the leaves over one side of the stuffing (you only enclose the stuffing from one side and leave the other open to allow for the rice to expand with cooking without causing the rolls to burst)

Roll the leaf to enclose the stuffing like a cigar.

Place each stuffed leaf in the pot, arrange them in layers, taking care to insert garlic cloves here and there. rolls   Cover the last layer with a couple of unstuffed cabbage leaves cooking cabbage At this stage you can store the stuffed cabbage rolls in the fridge for a day.

When it is time to cook the stuffed cabbage rolls,place a small plate on the cabbage rolls. This will prevent the boiling water from disrupting the rolls. plate Gently pour water (or chicken stock) until the water level is 4-5 cm over the level of the leaves.

Cover the pan and bring to a slow boil.

Lower the heat and simmer until the water has evaporated.

This should take about an hour. Check by carefully tilting the pot to check if there is any fluid left and then taste one of the cabbage rolls to make sure that the leaf and the stuffing are cooked through

Serve with lemon wedges.

Squeeze some lemon juice on the rolls immediately before eating


stuffed cabbage rolls

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  1. I’m so glad you finally posted a recipe for this! I studied abroad in Jordan and the family I lived with made malfoof all the time, it was my absolute favorite–aside from mansaf, of course! :)

  2. wow! sounds awsum!! I always ‘sour ‘ the cabbage leaves…depending on the brine it adds a wonderful flavour also…just sayin…

  3. I’ve never made cabbage rolls but am eager to try after reading this post. They look delicious!

  4. I love cabbage rolls but never dared to make at home. The recipe sounds not that complicated, Sawsan. Hoping to give it a try. They look delectable.

  5. AgileWriter

     /  December 18, 2013

    Very healthy appetizer, must for this Christmas.
    You can try Fruity Frizzle Baked Fish

  6. Sawsan, please thank your Mom for sharing her cabbage roll how-to with you and thank you for sharing it with us! I especially like the garlic infusion and the diameter of the rolls. Hope it warms up for you soon!

  7. Love stuffed cabbages and you rolled them very thin and that makes them even more fun to eat. Wishing you a super week. BAM

  8. cristinatrecate

     /  December 17, 2013

    These look PHENOMENAL! I need to try this :) Great post!

  9. What an awful snowstorm. Buried cars are not convenient at all. These rolls look simple enough to make though preparing the leaves looks the most time consuming part. A great comfort dish.

  10. Sawsan – This preparation of cabbage has a special place in my heart from childhood. I very much adore this fresh preparation with the bright lemon. It is very unique and looks delicious. The pomegranate seeds on top are so pretty against the green leaves – and the dip looks very “zippy” and velvety. Best – Shanna P.S. Great photo of the winter tree.

  11. Wow… lovely/interesting recipe :)

  12. Cabbage rolls are a Hungarian tradition and my dear Mom used to make them. The Hungarians always served them with a rich tomato sauce and sour cream, and her’s were usually more rounded instead of long and thin like yours. Serving them with lemon slices is also a lovely idea and I really am intrigued by cooking them in the stock. I’m fairly sure that the stuffing is always cooked before the leaves are stuffed in the Hungarian recipe and they are baked in the tomato sauce.
    We got dumped with snow on the weekend too, but it was nice that we didn’t have to drive anywhere.

  13. Love this recipe. I am preparing for a big Lebanese dinner party and to save time put the rolled baggage role with the raw mincemeat and rice into the freezer to cook the day before. I hope it works!

  14. mana ahmad

     /  December 16, 2013

    Salam Sawsan, I have a question related to this subject, have you ever made the malfof and freeze them before cooking and cook them later after you thaw them and if so what is the best steps to do that

  15. Mahshi Malfoof is what I look for when I am at a party or out for dinner, with or with out meat it is always fun to have it. Your pics made it look amazingly delicious :)

  16. It’s very popular in Poland as well :) I love it.

  17. Oh, thank you for this lovely post! It is being printed as I write… I love cabbage rolls! As a a Swede, I’m used to them (although, sadly, no-one cooks them anymore), and having worked in the Balkans, I’m familiar with more than one way of preparing them. I ‘m surely going to try this version! Mmmm, I can’t wait!

  18. Very nice, and simple recipe!

  19. Elly

     /  December 16, 2013

    thanks for the detailed tips.. only one qn. in the ingredients you wrote garlic cloves but u dont use them in ur recipe?!

  20. Eha

     /  December 16, 2013

    Originally coming from NE Europe cabbage rolls naturally came with the territory. Made about the same way, tho’ many disliked the use of garlic [what a pity!] at the time. However they never looked quite as elegant and slim as yours ~ ours were usually quite ‘countrified’ and fat, whereas yours truly would grave any party table! Happy Seasonal wishes Sawsan :) !

  21. I love stuffed cabbage rolls, but have never be brave to enough to make them myself! Thank you for the step by step instructions! I can’t wait to try them.

  22. G’day! Looks terrific Sawsan, true!
    Love snow photos and your step by step photos always are inspiring and help me too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  23. Robyn

     /  December 16, 2013

    What a lovely tutorial. It’s summer here in NZ, but I do look forward to trying your mother’s method when it’s our turn for winter. Having just found your wonderful blog, over the summer break I’m going to go back through your archives, and really look forward to eating some of the delicious looking things that have caught my eye. Keep warm!!

  24. Sounds like just the kind of hearty meal to satisfy when its cold and snowing outside.

  25. Does it snow often where you live? These stuffed cabbage rolls look really good. I’m eager to try them with lamb.

    • Once or twice a year Maureen but this snow storm was different, it snowed for three days, some areas got 1.5 meters of snow. I have friends who are still unable to move their cars because they are literally buried under the snow

  26. This looks wonderful! Everywhere we’ve traveled, we’ve had a kind of cabbage roll — my wife adores them and despite my dislike of cabbage, I don’t mind them. Thanks for the tip about prepping the cabbage — that’s the part I’ve never figured out!

    We just got 8 inches of snow, which is normal for us — been seeing on the news about the unusual winter weather where you are! Hope you’re staying warm!


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