Malfouf – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls ملفوف

If you are familiar with Palestinian cuisine you probably know that stuffing vegetables is something we do often and with different kinds of vegetables. Now, you may have had grape leaves which are more popular worldwide than malfouf. However, malfouf may not get the same international reputation but it is pretty popular in Palestine.

Malfouf Stuffed Cabbage

The Arabic word for maflouf means rolled, and that’s exactly how the leaves are, they are rolled around the stuffing.

We grew up eating fruits and vegetables in season and cabbage is a winter vegetable. Malfouf was often made at our household during the winter cold days. The smell of malfouf cooking on the stove is an appetite opening, then once it’s cooked, I remember my mother would flip the pot on a large tray. The combination of the smell and the steam coming out of malfouf simply warms your heart and your soul on a cold winter day in Ramallah.

When my mother used to make this dish, the entire kitchen turns into a cabbage factory; cabbage leaves everywhere, some are boiling in the pot, some laying on the table, and some are already stuffed and placed in the pot.

It is worth to mention that an average cabbage head in Palestine is much bigger than any cabbage here in the US, this means that the leaves are much bigger in comparison. But as Palestinians we manage to work with what we have, so the cabbage that is available here tastes just as good when cooked following the same instructions, the only difference is that the Palestinian cabbage leaves are easy to separate, before boiled in water, versus here since the cabbage size is smaller that means the leaves are tightly sticking together, and the solution to that is to dip the entire cabbage in hot water which will eventually make the leaves easily come apart.

So here is how to make stuffed malfouf:

I cannot say that this recipe is quick to make, as the case with any vegetable stuffing, this recipe will take a certain amount of time. However, cabbage can perhaps be the easiest to make amongst other stuffed vegetables and definitely easier than grape leaves, but trust me the effort is worth it at the end.  To make things easier, the cabbage can be rolled the day before and just cooked on the next day. I remember my mother used to do that with most of any stuffing vegetables, as she always prepared a big quantity for a large family.

This took up to an hour and a half to prepare and another hour to cook.

The first step is to cut the core off of the cabbage head, then you can either cut them in half or dip the entire cabbage in boiled hot water. Keep them in the boiling water under medium heat for about 2 minutes, then you’ll start to notice the leaves are easily separating from one another, make sure that the leaves are completely dipped in water, leave them for another 2 minutes until they become tender. Set them aside to drain. Keep in mind the idea here is to soften the leaves so they can easily be rolled but not to be fully cooked, because the leaves will be cooked again with the rice and meat after stuffing.

For stuffing: in a bowl, add rinsed rice, lamb or beef (minced or ground), cumin, allspices, salt and vegetable oil. Mix all together until well combined. Keep in my mind that with stuffing we usually use minced meat, wherein Palestine you can easily get minced meat from any butcher. However, this option is not available here in the US, the other alternative is to finely cut your own, but for the sake of time I normally use ground meat instead and it works out pretty well.

For the rolling process: cut each cabbage leaf into about 3-4 inches X 6 inches sheets (that may take different shapes according to the leaf shape). Cut off large stalks in the middle of each leaf (you can place them in the bottom of a cooking pot). Place each sheet on a smooth surface. Add about one tablespoon of stuffing to each sheet and then spread it across the sheet leaving some space in the edges. Roll sheet forward toward stuffing (it’s okay to leave the roll edges open). Repeat for each sheet until you fill half of the pot.

Add half quantity of garlic cloves unpeeled. Continue to layer up the pot with cabbage rolls. Add the remaining amount of garlic, some salt, some butter or oil on top. Cover cabbage rolls with boiled water (same level of the rolls) and place the pot over high heat until it starts boiling, then cover the pot, reduce the heat to the minimum and let simmer for about 1 hour and until the rice is fully cooked. Serve hot with extra fresh lemon juice squeezed on top and a side of yogurt (optional).

Note: To enjoy the full flavor and moisture of stuffed cabbage rolls, flip the pot over onto a large serving plate.

This recipe makes 4 servings

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Malfouf Stuffed Cabbage

Malfouf – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls ملفوف

  • Author: Wafa Shami

Description

at stuffing vegetables is something we do often and with different kinds of vegetables. Now, you may have had grape leaves which are more popular worldwide than malfouf. However, malfouf may not get the same international reputation but it is pretty popular in Palestine.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups Egyptian or cal-rose rice, washed and rinsed
  • 2 medium-small sized cabbage
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoon salt (and some to add with boiled water)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • fresh lemon juice (as needed)

Instructions

  1. Cut the core off of the cabbage head.
  2. Fill up a large cooking pot with hot water and sprinkle some salt, make sure the water is not filled all the way to the top as you need to place the cabbage.
  3. Either keep the cabbage as is or cut in half depending on the size of the pot then dip in boiled hot water.
  4. Keep them in the boiling water under medium heat for about 2 minutes, then you’ll start to notice the leaves are easily separating from one another, make sure that the leaves are completely dipped in water, leave them for another 2 minutes until they become tender. Set them aside to drain.
  5. For stuffing: in a bowl, add rinsed rice, meat (minced or ground), cumin, allspices, salt and vegetable oil. Mix all together until well combined.
  6. For the rolling process: cut each cabbage leaf into about 3-4 inches X 6 inches sheets (that may take different shapes according to the leaf shape). Cut off large stalks in the middle of each leaf and place them at the bottom of a large cooking pot.
  7. Place each sheet on a smooth surface. Add about one tablespoon of stuffing to each sheet and then spread it across the sheet leaving some space in the edges. Roll sheet forward toward stuffing (it’s okay to leave the roll edges open) and place it in the pot. Repeat for each sheet until you fill half of the pot. Add half quantity of garlic cloves unpeeled.
  8. Continue to layer up the pot with cabbage rolls. Add the remaining amount of garlic, some salt, some butter or oil on the top.
  9. Cover cabbage rolls by water (same level of the rolls) and place the pot over medium heat until water is boiling. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to the minimum and let simmer for about 1 hour until the rice is fully cooked.
  10. Serve hot with extra lemon squeezed on top and some plain yogurt (optional)

Notes

Note: The other option with the stems if you don’t want to add them to the pot, is to chop them and saute them with onions and olive oil or with any leftover meat.

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