Sensational Sarma (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

The Balkan name is Sarma – we call them Cabbage Rolls…  There is something so wonderful about this combination of cabbage, meat and rice – it’s so simple yet so damned delicious.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t salivate over the thought of Sarma and mashed potatoes….  Heaven on a plate…

We have several friends with kind Mothers who have guided us over the years  – Macedonian, Serbian, Polish – they all recommend the same trick – you must use whole sauerkraut leaves!  You can buy these as a whole head in some Continental Deli’s but the smell is quite daunting.  Luckily you can also buy the whole leaves rolled and packed into the massive jars I recently stumbled across at my local fruit shop/deli.  There are 12 big leaves stuffed in the jar.  Some are bigger than others and can be halved.  We got 16 rolls out of the one jar.

IMG_5553

Vegeta is a Croatian mixture of salt and spices.  It also has a little MSG in it but didn’t leave us with any after effects as we didn’t use much.  It takes the place of salt in this dish and is very strong so use it sparingly…

Some recipes call for the addition of Speck which is an Italian smoked fatty meat from the pork belly.   I substituted with Kaiserfleisch which is basically the same thing but with much less fat.  It gives the rich smoky bacon taste to the meat filling..

My husband has a good mate at work who supplies us with authentic Hungarian paprika – his parents regularly bring back kilograms of the stuff when they visit the old country. It is vital to use a really good quality paprika as the authentic taste of this dish is in the spices…

My only tip is keep an eye on them while baking in the oven – the rolls absorb most of the stock and I found I basted the top layer a couple of times to keep them moist.  You can add additional stock if needed…  What is left at the bottom of the dutch oven is a gloriously tasty liquid – don’t waste it  – spoon it over the rolls and enjoy…

All packeed in and ready for the oven
All packed in and ready for the oven
Two hours later - delicious Cabbage Rolls are ready to serve
Two hours later – delicious Cabbage Rolls are ready to serve
Served with creamy mashed potato and a dollop of sour cream...  A sprinkinge of paprika adds some colour
Served with creamy mashed potato and a dollop of sour cream… A sprinkling of paprika adds some colour

Ingredients: 

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

150 g kaiserfleisch, finely diced

1 large red capsicum, finely diced

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

500 g minced beef

500 g minced veal

1 generous tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon Vegeta (or a vegetable stock cube, crumbled)

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup arborio rice

1 egg, beaten

½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

pickled cabbage leaves (large leaves can be cut in half to make 2 leaves)

2-3 cups of chicken stock

additional paprika to sprinkle over top

shredded sauerkraut for the oven dish

Method:

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions, garlic, red peppers and speck for a few minutes

Stir in the paprika and tomato paste and mix well

Remove from the heat and leave to cool

Combine with the minced meats, Vegeta, mustard powder and pepper

Stir in the rice, egg and parsley.

Combine well using your hands

Place the cabbage leaves on a board and add a generous handful of the mixture to each one

Shape the stuffing into a sausage and roll up inside the leaves, tucking the ends of the leaves back into the rolls.

Lay the sauerkraut over the base of a large Dutch oven

Pack in the rolls so there are few gaps

There will be 2–3 layers in the pot

Top with another layer of sauerkraut

Pour over the chicken stock and sprinkle with additional paprika

Bake in a 170c-180c oven for around 2 hours

Check on the rolls occasionally and baste with the stock – if there is too little, add in additional stock to prevent the rolls drying out.

Serve with creamy mashed potato and a dollop of sour cream

 

Bon Appetit!  🙂

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