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malfoufCabbage rolls are full of zest and nutrition. Do not skimp on the garlic nor on the lemon juice – they give this dish its sparkle!

To better utilize my time, in the fall when cabbage is at its peak and when one is already in the pickling and preserving mood, I buy a number of cabbages and prepare them for stuffing. I then pack the blanched leaves into plastic bags and freeze. When needed, I simply defrost and stuff into rolls. A job made much easier!

375 mL (1 1/2 cups) long or medium grain rice
10 mL (2 tsp) salt
1 head cabbage (savoy or regular)
1 kg (2 pounds) beef or lamb, coarsely ground (preferably cut up into raisin-size pieces)
40 mL (3 tbsp) melted butter
10 mL (2 tsp) salt
5 mL (1 tsp) black pepper
5 mL (1 tsp) cinnamon
10 mL (2 tsp) allspice
10-20 unpeeled whole cloves of garlic
10 mL (2 tsp) salt
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 lemons

Place rice in a large bowl. Cover generously with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes or more.

Fill a very large pot half full with water, add 10 mL (2 tsp) salt and bring to a boil. Cut into and all around the core of the cabbage. Remove core. Cook the cabbage head in boiling water for 2 minutes. Using a long fork, loosen, and pull out the softened outer leaves. Lay them on a wooden board to cool. Keep boiling, and loosening, and removing leaves until finished. (Certainly this is laborious work – do read note below.)

Remove coarse middle ridge (save a few for later use) and cut each leaf into 3 or 4 pieces. Boil for 1 or 2 minutes in the same water, a few at a time.

Drain rice. Add meat, butter, 10 mL (2 tsp) salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Combine thoroughly.

Arrange the saved ridges in the bottom of cooking pot to avoid scorching later on.

Lay cabbage leaf on a flat surface. Place a thin line of filling along the grain of the leaf and roll to make a finger-like shape. Squeeze to firm up and arrange rolls in layers in the pot. When you’ve laid a layer or two, spread out the unpeeled cloves of garlic over the existing cabbage rolls and continue stuffing the rest of the leaves. Sprinkle with remaining salt and add boiling water or meat stock until it covers half the layers. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Crush garlic, mix with the juice of 1 lemon and pour over cabbage rolls. Cook uncovered until most of the water has evaporated. If you can manage it, work the pot in such a way as to move the lower layers to the top and vice versa; this will help meld the flavours.

More lemon juice may be added on individual servings.

Serve with radishes, green onions and or olives. To eat the whole cloves of garlic: using your front teeth, suck-in the delicious creamy pulp and discard the soft peel. Yummy!!

The crushed garlic usually turns greenish when cooked; do not worry, it is safe to eat.

Makes 6-7 servings

Note: Microwave method to loosen cabbage leaves: Place cabbage on top a bit of water, in bowl, and seal tightly with cellophane. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until softened