Thursday, December 06, 2012

Malfouf - Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage

Malfouf is a Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage Roll that is stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, and spices and then cooked with lots of lemon and garlic.  It is another family favorite in our house and the kids gobble it up and ask for seconds which justifies the amount of time it takes to make this dish.  Set aside an afternoon and give this a try, just promise me that you'll serve it with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon on top, it makes all the difference in the world!

1 large head of cabbage
1 pound minced beef or lamb (this version was made with minced venison and was equally as tasty, and much leaner than a traditional filling.  You can also used ground beef in a pinch.)
1 cup rice, washed and drained of water
3 lemons, juiced (More lemons for serving)
2 heads garlic, sliced thinly
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt

Fill a large pot 2/3 of the way with water and bring to a low boil.  Cut the core out of the cabbage and place entire head of cabbage in boiling water.  Boil for about 5 minutes and then carefully remove each leaf as it loosens.  I often use a fork and a pair of tongs to gently peel each leaf off and place it on a sheet pan to cool.  Do not try to force the leaves apart or they will tear, simply leave them to boil for another minute or two and then try again.

While cabbage is cooling, mix meat, rice, spices, and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl.  Set aside.  Take the cooled cabbage leaves and cut the thickest part of the stem out.   I use kitchen shears and cut a V shape removing the tough vein out of each leaf.  Use the three largest, most outer leaves and line the bottom of a heavy dutch oven with them(I often throw in the smallest pieces as well).

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture on the edge of a cabbage leaf( start with the darkest leaves).   Roll each leaf, folding the edges over, around the meat and line the rolls carefully in the dutch oven or large pot.  Continue until you run out of meat or cabbage.  You should end up with 3-4 layers of rolls.

Next heat olive oil in a sauté pan and fry garlic until golden and then dump on top of cabbage rolls.  Mix 3 1/2 cups of water with lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Pour over garlic and cabbage.

Carefully rotate pot around to saturate all of the rolls and then bring up to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 1 1/2 hours until rice is fully cooked and no longer crunchy.  Also, check occasionally to make sure there is still enough liquid left, do not let it get dry and feel free to add a little water if necessary.  Serve with lemon wedges.

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