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Stuffed Cabbage Leaves or Lahana Sarma

It took me 12 years in Australia to make an attempt to this intricate dish. It is always tricky anyway as you never learn this dish from a cookbook. You never know how many leaves you’re going to get from 1 cabbage. You somehow learn to adjust the cabbage leave-stuffing mixture ratio over time. Besides, the cabbage you get over here is different. So I did my best to get the measurements right in this recipe.

Traditionally, mincemeat stuffed cabbage sarmas are served with yoghurt. Although, I haven’t found the ultimate yoghurt replacement yet, you could try and mix Tofutti sour cream with lemon juice to have a similar effect. Not perfect but very close. The recipe below yields 20 sarmas which is enough for 4 people as a main dish. Afiyet olsun Peoples!

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves or Lahana Sarma

20 cabbage leaves

For the stuffing mixture:
½ cup TVP
½ cup medium grain rice, rinsed and drained well
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp concentrated tomato paste
1 tsp hot pepper paste
1tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp Massel Stock Powder (beef style)
1 tsp dried mint

To cook:
½ tsp concentrated tomato paste
½ tsp hot pepper paste
Boiled water

To make the stuffing mixture: Place the TVP in a large bowl with pepper and tomato paste. Sprinkle with the stock powder and add boiled water. The whole mixture should be covered. Stir well until the pastes are dissolved, then add dried mint and salt. Drizzle with oil and stir again.
To prepare the leaves: Boil some water in a large pot and add the cabbage leaves 3 at a time, making sure that they are emerged well into the water. Boil the leaves for 5 minutes and drain. Cut the large leaves into two and remove the tough part during the process as well.
To stuff the leaves: Get yourself 2 large flat plates; one for the rolling process and the other one for rolled ones. I actually don’t like to work on a chopping board as it is messier that way. Lay a cabbage leaf on the plate and place 1 tbsp of filling at the wider, thinner side of the leaf and spread the filling. Fold the sides over the filling and then the top bit. Roll firmly towards the tip. Pop it onto the other plate and repeat with the remaining filling and leaves. Judging by the number of stuffed cabbages; choose the right size of a heavy-based, stainless steel saucepan. First, line the bottom of it with some unusable leaves. Use the ugly, broken ones for the job and save the good looking ones for show  Pack the sarmas tightly in one layer and then another on top.
To cook: Boil some water and mix it with ½ tsp of tomato paste and ½ tsp of pepper paste, making sure that it is well dissolved. Pour it over the sarmas and cover with an inverted plate. The reason for this is that you need enough water to cook the rice in the filling but once it starts boiling sarmas start to float around. To make things worse, it doesn’t matter how tightly they are wrapped, they release their content into the water. That’s not what you want. Now, put the lid on and bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until all that water is absorbed and the rice is cooked thoroughly.

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