Friday, September 1, 2006

Egyptian Style Stuffed Cabbage

Egyptian style stuffed cabbage leaves


- Large head of green cabbage
- 2 cups short grain white rice
- onion grated to almost liquid
- 1 bunch each of fresh parsley, cilantro, dill- finely chopped, including some of the stems
- 2 large tomatoes blended and reduced
- 1 large onion chopped.
- tomato paste
- canola oil
- pinch of crushed garlic
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons dry mint
- Arabic 7 Spice ***
- canola oil
- juice of half lemon

*** Arabic 7 spice (baharat) is mixture of spices you can ready at any Middle Eastern grocery. If you don't have one where you live, you can make using the following:

Quick Baharat Recipe

2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Mix well and store in an airtight container or in freezer.


Rice stuffing mixture

On top of stove, put a good amount oil or butter; add onion and sauté. Add garlic when onions almost finished not to burn.
Add a spoon of tomato paste and stir around until all coated.
Add pureed tomato, a few drops of water and cook until liquid is almost gone. It should be a little thick, not too watery. You can add some salt to taste to this too.
Set aside.

Put washed rice in mixing bowl.
Add the above tomato mixture.
Add raw, chopped greens- parsley, dill and cilantro. Its okay to chop some of their stems, gives the mixture more flavor.
Add a little canola oil.
Add all spices and dry mint.
Take 1 chicken bouillon cube and crush it, add to rice.
Mix all ingredients until well blended set aside. Try to taste, will be raw I know, but you can taste and not swallow rice. Adjust seasonings. Salt is most important, if too salty, don’t worry, once cooked it will lessen.

Cooking Cabbage

This is the trickiest part. I have not yet found the perfect way, but my way has been working alright…here it goes.

Wash the head of cabbage well.
With a paring knife, gently cut around core, loosening it a bit. Try to cup deep, but try not to cut leaves, or separate at this point.

Using a large pot, fill with water, and a few dashes of cumin.
Once boiling, add the head of cabbage, with core facing up.

As the cabbage starts to cook, with a knife, gently pull away leaves from core and cook until a bit soft, but not translucent.
So you will have the large head of cabbage in pot and you will be cutting leaves and letting them boil alone aside the head. (Hope this makes sense.)

When the leaves are a bit soft, tender not translucent, remove to a large tray.
Continue this until all cabbage is cooked.

You will have the very small leaves towards inside core, you will be able to use some of these, but some maybe too small. I usually make a cabbage salad with these.

Once the leaves are cool, you will begin to stuff.

Rolling/stuffing the cabbage

Prepare a large pot, put some oil in bottom of pot to coat.
Slice 1 large tomato thinly and place on bottom of pot. You will arrange cabbage in this pot as you roll.

Take a cabbage leaf and cut from the bottom, where core starts.
Cut away the hard core and reserve the two sides from leaf making a pile.
Save a few of the cores stems as well.
Tricky but you are trying to get a pliable leaf for rolling.

You want to make the leaf small, cutting a half of the leaf in half. The end result should be size of small cigar.

Don't worry about how they look, they will not be real tight and they may seem like the rice will come out, just close as best you can, they will be fine.

So with leaf laying flat, spoon a small amount of rice onto leaf, fold up bottom and roll like a cigar. Don't worry the ends will be open, but cook ok. Some rice may boil out but not much trust me.

Roll all until leaves are finished.

Once all rolled and arranged in pot, add a crushed chicken bouillon cube. As you are arranging in pot, you can put a few of the core stems in between layers to help stay in place.

Take approx. 3 cups water and mix with tomato paste, pour over cabbage. Water should reach just above cabbage. If not enough, add more water.

Take an old plate, invert it over cabbage to keep from moving too much.

Put on high, bring to a boil, cook for about 10 minutes, then turn to a lower simmer and cover.

Should cook for approximately an hour or so, you can check it periodically by tasting to see if rice is cooked inside.

Once cooked let sit for a little to cool a bit before removing from pot.

When ready to remove, take a large serving platter, put over top of pot, then flip pot to empty onto platter. Be careful and do over sink if you are unsure. Its easy but take s a little practice.

Remove core stems, fix tomatoes that are on top, to look presentable.

That’s it…sounds hard and maybe a bit complicated, but once you make you will LOVE! It gets easier with time too.

Enjoy and let me know how it worked for you, eh hum...FS!!!!


  1. Thanks for the recipe! I'm so excited it to try it. What is 7 spice? Is that allspice?

    I've actually made this once before, with meat. So, i have a pretty good idea about the steps involved.

  2. And how much of the spices? I know you say to taste, but i'm not sure what i'm tasting or what to look for when i'm tasting. Just give me an estimate of the spices, and i'll take it from there. 1 teaspoon of each ... 1 tablespoon?

  3. Okay the 7 spice is mixture of spices you can ready at any Middle Eastern grocery. If you don't have one where you live, you can make using the following:

    Quick Baharat (Arabic 7 Spice)

    2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
    2 tbsp paprika
    2 tbsp ground cumin
    1 tbsp ground coriander
    1 tbsp ground cloves
    1 tsp nutmeg
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground cardamom

  4. Okay for the amount of spices...

    Cumin- 1 tablespoon
    Salt- 2 tablespoons
    Pepper- 1 teaspoon
    7 spice- 2 tablespoons
    Dry mint about 2 tablespoons

    It sounds like alot, but really it cooks out....

  5. The 7 spices blend can be found in most Middle Eastern stores in the US.

    Also, a suggestion--in Jordan they may something similar called "malfouf" where the ladies keep the bottom layer of cabbage (or grape leaves or stuffed zucchini) in the pot from burning by lining the bottom with potato slices. Sometimes our hard work can be lost if we put those directly on the bottom and that layer burns or over cooks, especially on a gas stove.

    You can also try another heat-resistant ceramic dish on the bottom if you don't have any potatoes from which to make slices.

    I’ve always had problems getting all the rice to cook. Sometimes even when I rinse the rice and half-cook it like they do in Jordan, I still have some raw rice in the middle. If I cook the stuffed cabbage (grape leaves, or zucchini) so long that the rice is finally cooked, the outside vegetable just falls apart. Has anyone tried baking the cabbage in the oven? I know a lot of Americans do it that way; I haven’t tried but just wondering…

  6. First of all "anonymous" I miss you!!! I hope you read this....I promise to 'pod it' very soon....

    You know, when i make any stuffed vegetable the rice always cooks through. The key I have found is the water. Even if you you put too much, you can drain before serving.

    Potatoes on the bottom I have not tried. With any veggie, be it cabbage, peppers, zuchinni, grape leaves, I have always used tomatoes on the bottom, along with coating with oil and never burned yet?

    I know some who bake stuffed veggies in oven, I too have not tried, but tasted good when I ate that way in the U.S.

  7. I miss you too!

    Plz make duah for my husband. He has applied for a promotion at work and insha'allah we'll be finding out soon, perhaps even this weekend. It really means a lot to us and maybe I can reconsider my carrer options (like getting out of project management) and stepping down :)


  8. I don't know if anyone will ever see this, but I wanted to (finally) say that I made this recipe last Ramadan and everyone (Egyptians from both Cairo and Alex) loved it! I can cook, but when it comes to Egyptian foods, I feel I can never compete with those ladies. This recipe finally put me on the top of the heap! I appreciated all of the detailed instructions .... it really made it easy to be super-perfectionist about making it right. I made this while fasting and mash' allah it made a great iftar.

    Keep posting recipes, wherever you are!

  9. Wow!! This looks almost exactly how my mother inlaw used to make it. I never seen her put in the 7 spice though, but I iwll give it a try.. I do like the flavours of the cilantro/dill/mint mixed. I know she used these and chicken stock rather then cubes , she is an Egyptian wonderful cook

  10. OK. So i have it on the stove now. That cabbage was a pain in the A@%!
    I'll let you know if everything turned out ok!!!

  11. that was so hard but there were promising only thing is the rolling part... I rolled so little rice in a little too much cabbage I'd cut it in half and then use the whole half... Next time I'll not be so scared the rice might fall out, because it wilts and the rice makes the cabbage wrap tight around it.


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