Malfouf or Mehshi Malfouf, is a Lebanese stuffed cabbage roll dish that inspired my recipe for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls. I remember my Grandma spending hours in the kitchen making the lamb and rice stuffing and hand rolling these delicate, delicious rolls. They were one of my favorite dishes to eat growing up and I truly miss spending Saturdays at her house surrounded by family and good food. While every family recipe is different, she made ours with a tomato sauce base and the stuffing was always lamb and rice. I have had Malfouf prepared many other ways, including with a garlic lemon sauce, but as with any stubborn family member, I like what I know!
Needless to say, I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen hand rolling cabbage. I truly wish I did, and maybe someday I will, but for now, I’m left to my own devices to fill the food void left by my grandmother’s passing. Perhaps some weekend in the future I will spend a day devoted to cooking family recipes and share some with you all. While my recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls deviates from the traditional spices and cooking of Malfouf, I wasn’t seeking to re-create it, but instead re-invent it. I do believe that while my method doesn’t take nearly as long as the hand rolls, the recipe is able to achieve the same complexity of flavors with different and additional spices. I hope you enjoy my unstuffed cabbage rolls which I find perfect for a dreary, rainy, cold spring day (which we have had a lot of recently). This recipe will also leave you with loads of leftovers and it tastes just as great re-heated.
- 1 lb. lean ground turkey
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 1 head cabbage
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 C. chicken broth, unsalted
- 2 15-oz. cans fire roasted diced tomatoes (I usually use one with garlic and one plain - or whatever mixture you prefer)
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
- 2 tsp packed dark brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- Small dice onion and mince garlic cloves. Heat a large pot (with lid) over medium heat. Drizzle roughly 1tbs of olive oil in the bottom of the pan. Add the turkey meat, minced garlic and diced onion. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until brown, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces as it cooks.
- Once the meat is cooked thoroughly and broken up into small pieces, add the tomato sauce, two cans of diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar and chicken broth. Stir to combine. Then, stir in all the spices.
- Bring the meat, tomato and spice mixture to a simmer. While it is heating it up, cut the cabbage head in half, then into quarters. Remove the stem by cutting it out on an angle. Then slice each quarter into 1 inch slivers and chop. The size of the cabbage is really your preference so go wild here if you want.
- Mix the cabbage in (it will seem thick and hard to stir). Once it is combined, cover with the lid and bring mixture to a low boil. Reduce heat to keep mixture at a simmer and cook 30-45 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. Your cooking time will depend on how big your pieces of cabbage are.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Tastes great over rice, quinoa, farro or your favorite grain. Serve with a side of crusty bread!
P.S. Looking for some Lebanese recipes to try on your own? Check out two of my favorite cookbooks, Healthy Syrian and Lebanese Cooking by Helen Corey and Lebanese Cooking by Dawn, Elaine & Selwa Anthony.