Thursday, January 31, 2013

Slowing Down to Enjoy Cooking: Turkish Cabbage Rolls

I like slow food because it reminds me that I don’t have to live life in a hurry.  So often we buzz through life on high speed, and meal preparation turns into a stressful quick fix, whatever we can get on the table the fastest! Of course, most evenings I want a nutritional meal that’s quick and practical, but once in a while I slow down to enjoy cooking as a hobby. Slow food is “produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients.” **

Last weekend I took the time to make a traditional Turkish dish that I love:

Etli Lahana Sarması (Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Meat and Rice)


1 large cabbage

Ingredients for filling:

300 g ground beef (just under ¾ lb.)
1½ cups rice (uncooked)
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
1 onion, minced
3 TBSP olive oil
3 TBSP tomato paste
1 ½ tsp. mint
¼ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar

Ingredients needed for cooking:

5-6 cloves minced garlic
3 cups boiling water
1 ½ TBSP tomato paste


Cut out the core from the cabbage and plunge it into boiling water for a minute.  Rinse it with cold water and carefully remove the outer leaves.  Repeat this step until you’ve removed all of the smooth outer leaves. Save the small, wrinkled middle to make coleslaw.  Set your cabbage leaves aside on a large tray.


Mix the filling ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Take the cabbage leaves and use kitchen scissors to cut out the central veins that are too thick to roll from the outer leaves. Cut the leaves into 3 x 4 ½ inch pieces, give or take. (8 x 12 cm.) Using cut cabbage veins and scraps, line the bottom of a lidded skillet or pan.  To line the pan, use only whatever cabbage you won’t be able to roll.


Put a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the short end of a piece of cut cabbage and press it into a little roll that is a bit shorter than the width of your cut cabbage leaf. Roll it up, wrapping the cabbage twice around the rice roll.  Don’t bother trying to close off the sides. Make rolls and place them side by side, tightly together in your pan. You should have enough filling for two layers.  When you finish one layer, sprinkle it with salt and half of the minced garlic.  Make a second layer of rolls on top of the first, and repeat, using the rest of the garlic.


Mix 1 ½ TBSP tomato paste in the boiling water and slowly pour it over the cabbage rolls.  Place a heat proof dinner plate face down over the rolls. Put on the lid and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the water is absorbed.  Let the rolls rest for 20 minutes or so after you’ve turned off the heat.

Serve plain or accompanied by garlic yogurt.  (1 cup of yogurt with ½ tsp salt and 1 minced clove garlic) Afiyet olsun!

If you live overseas, do you enjoy learning to cook local food? Or do you stick to foods from your native country?

**Quote from Wikipedia article, "Slow Food"


Creatively Content said...

These look fabulous! Wish I could have been there for dinner. ;) Much care and grace to you Olive.

OliveTree said...

Thanks! They were delicious! Probably my most successful sarma attempt!

Rosilind Jukic said...

We have something similar in Croatia made with sauerkraut called Sarma. Probably some Turkish influence. :) They look delish!

Nancy said...

These look yummy! I think I'll try them on my family. We enjoy preparing a few of the local foods, as well as our old favorites. Thanks for the recipe!

Choate Family said...

I love slow food! Of course, when you live overseas, slow food is often your only option. We have learned how to cook lots of local food in the Solomons, but we still like a good batch of good ole American chocolate chip cookies from time to time as well :-)

OliveTree said...

I agree with you about the batch of chocolate chip cookies!! I've found that local friends love them too. Our family also loves lots of new dishes as well as old favorites from back home.