The first thing you need to know about this recipe is that you will have to set aside some time to prepare the cabbage leave. Unfortunately there is no shortcut and you will have to go through the process of softening the leaves before you can stuff them.
That being said, it is absolutely worth the extra effort and an absolute treat! As a young girl my mom used to make the South African version quite a bit but in those days she did not experiment with different spices and “vegan or vegetarian” was a foreign word back in the days.
Read my instructions carefully as I have given you 2 alternatives, one with beef mince and the other as a vegan or vegetarian option with rice. Both has middle-eastern spices and can be served with my Baked Tomato and Aubergine dish on the side.
- 1 x medium green cabbage
- 1 x medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 x clove garlic, finely chopped
- 400g x beef mince (vegan alternative : 1 cup x long-grain rice)
- ½ cup x dried apricots, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup x toasted pine nuts
- 1 Tbsp x lemon zest
- 1 tsp x ground cumin
- 2 tsp x ground cinnamon
- 1 x egg (don't use if you're following the vegan alternative)
- 1 x tomato, chopped
- ¼ cup x fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup x extra virgin olive oil
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and remove most of the inner core. (Similar to what you would do when coring an apple)
- Place the whole head of cabbage in boiling water with the core facing down. Boil for about 2 minutes and then start removing the outer leaves as they soften using a pair of tongs.
- Continue the same process, peeling off the blanched layers of cabbage leaves as they soften. Set aside in a colander to cool.
- You will reach a stage where the cabbage leaves are too small to use for the stuffing. We don't waste anything in this recipe, finely chop the remainder of the cabbage and set aside for use later.
- Once the leaves are cooled, remove any thick center veins from the bottom of each leave and overlap the cut edges to form a whole leave again.
- If you are vegan or vegetarian, you will need to prepare the rice by cooking it until just tender. (Al dente)
- Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Stir in the garlic.
- If using beef, add the mince at this stage and fry until browned.
- If you're using rice, stir in the rice until it is heated through.
- For both dishes, stir in the chopped leftover cabbage, chopped tomato, apricots, pine nuts, lemon zest, cumin, cinnamon, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
- Set aside to cool slightly and at this stage you will add the egg if you are using the minced beef.
- Heat your oven to 190°C.
- Take a piece of cabbage and place on a flat surface. Add about 2 tablespoons of stuffing mixture at the end of the leaf closest to you. Roll up the leaf and tuck in the sides to completely enclose the stuffing. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves.
- Tightly pack the cabbage rolls, seam-side down, in a lightly oiled ovenproof dish. Add about a ½ -1 cup of water (water should barely reach the top layer of cabbage rolls).
- Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove the foil and drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until leaves are tender and slightly golden, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before transferring to a serving platter.