Friday, September 21, 2012

Lambage Rolls! Lamb & Rice Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Almonds and Currants

My love of cabbage rolls is deep and unconditional. I almost always make the same version, based on my Aunt Angela’s famous recipe, but once in a while, just for the hell of it, I’ll use lamb instead of beef. 

I love lamb burgers and lamb meatballs, so it’s no surprise that I love lamb-stuffed cabbage rolls, and I’m happy to report that these particular “lambage” rolls were the best non-beef version yet!

I remembered a middle-eastern restaurant Michele and I used to frequent, which served a lamb meatball stewed with tomatoes and spices, and served over a rice pilaf studded with almonds and currants. I really loved that dish and tried to incorporate those elements into these cabbage rolls.

I loved the results. Big, bold flavors, yet not too heavy, and like all cabbage rolls, these were very, very comforting. I used a pretty lean grind for the lamb, but ideally the butcher will give you something close to a 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio.

As far as the rest of the stuff, you’re on your own, and as usual I’ll ignore most of the “can I leave out the [insert delicious, totally necessary ingredient here]” questions. You are the boss of your cabbage rolls, so act like it. Anyway, I hope you share my love of cabbage rolls, and if you do, I really hope you give this version a try. Enjoy!

Makes 8 Lambage Rolls
1 lb ground lamb
1 cup rice
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
pinch dried oregano
1/4 cup packed Italian parsley
1 tbsp dried currants
2 tbsp sliced almonds
1 cup tomato puree
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 onion sliced
1 head cabbage
salt and pepper to taste
feta and parsley to garnish, optional

View the complete recipe


Anonymous said...

How much garlic?

These look unbelievable. Can't wait to make them! -Adam

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

Chef Jon, do you think mushroom could be substituted for the lamb? My husband and I are vegetarians, but we love your recipes (they're great!) and want to try this one. Thanks!:)

Unknown said...

Can I omit the lamb? What about the I really need?

Just kidding.

Happen to have beef in the fridge just waiting to become something different than hamburger and will give it a try with that.

As always...thanks for another great idea.

Roberto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hey Chef,

I don't eat mammals but I would love to try this. Do you think it would work better with ground turkey or chicken?


glutaman said...

In Greece we skip the almond, dried cranberries, and tomato sauce. However the magic comes at the end with avgolEmono (literally egg-with-lemon) :)

Anonymous said...

Love the "lamb basting" crack at the end - good one Chef John. The C in Chef must be for comic.

BTW, great looking recipe too, even for someone not crazy about cabbage rolls; going to give this one a whirl. Thanks!

Chibby said...

Looks like a great twist on an old favorite

Anonymous said...

I might substitute tiny pieces of apple for the currants.

MurphyzLaw said...

You can also microwave the cabbage for about a minute at 70-80% power instead of blanching it in boiling water - it's almost as good a result, and lets you do an entire cabbage in about 3-5 minutes, without burning your hands.

MurphyzLaw said...

You can also soften the cabbage leaves by microwaving the cabbage. It only takes about 3 minutes this way. While over-microwaving the cabbage will make the leaves tough, since their being baked anyway, the connective fibers will have time to break down.

TwoBoost said...

Mighty nice! Lovely cabbage wrapped Morrocan meatballs. We made these pretty much to recipe apart from hot paprika instead of cayenne. We also used less butter as our lamb mince was fairly fatty.

Next time I'd like to put in thyme and mint instead of oregano; along with more cumin and currants to the mince, which will be goat or mutton if I can get my hooves on either.

We have filed this recipe under tasty John balls!

robin said...

Looks gorgeous, Chef John! If you're open to another way of enjoying your love of stuffed cabbage, you might want to try cooking them in chicken stock until tender, pour off excess water, turn out onto serving platter & squeeze fresh lemon all over it!! Use plain yogurt as a side dip. A. Maz. Ing.

Adriana @ FoodCocktail said...

I love this dish. In Romania it's traditional for Christmas and it's made with pork and sour cabbage.
But your version has more flavors and it makes me curious, because I never thought before to replace the pork with lamb.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit of an abomination. If i disregard some of the more non-sensical ingredients, almonds,cinnamon, etc. It really is too much rice, you're dinner guests will be whispering that you are cheap! I can't really describe the feeling that you want when mixing it, but thats too much filler. You original recipe was better, although the Polish up here in North Eastern PA use a pork/veal mix and campbells tomato soup instead of tomato puree. But I can't fault you (can't say the same for my mother though)

Unknown said...

I tried it and I took some pictures to share it with you Chef...Sorry for the bad language, I'm french ^^

Anonymous said...

Actually made this item last night. While lamb has some inherent dislikes, there are many reasons we like to use it. Short version, this is one great way to use lamb! Not one thing about it we'd change. Thank you Chef for a great recipe. We've tried others of yours, all good.

Prospero said...

I used beef instead of lamb, which was fine, but I encountered 3 problems:

Mine came out dry for some reason. I think there could be greater emphasis on the tomato part. I would do away with the chicken broth and submerge the rolls using just tomato puree. More flavor and better absorption.

I rolled my, uh, "party burritos" a little too big. I'll use less meat per roll next time.

How do you get the cabbage to come apart by spoon, like in your video? Mine wouldn't. The entire cabbage shell would slip off when I tried to eat it. Pretty sure I boiled my cabbage long enough, but who knows.

All in all, I re-simmered my rolls in diced tomato for 2 hours and then they were just right. Thanks chef.

AFB said...

This looks so good. I've always loved the flavors in traditional stuffed cabbage leaves, but think that the texture can be too soft/mushy. The almonds sound like a perfect solution, and currants sound great too!

Have you ever tried to make these with brown rice? I've been thinking the nutty flavor and firmer texture might be another improvement?

Chef John said...

never tried but probably be good!

anon in CO said...

Just discovered you and your blog via Youtube. Love the videos. Thank you for sharing your knowledge in such a fun fashion! Going to give this a whirl with some elk meat we have in the freezer (I belong to a family of hunters). I don't have a Dutch oven or heavy pan like in the video. Can I cook the rolls in a crock pot?

Chef John said...

Never tried but should work!

Chef John said...


Anonymous said...

This recipe is simply amazing! I couldn't get enough of it. I didn't have almonds so I used walnuts and cranberries instead. It was so great! I loved the feta cheese at the end. Really nice touch. Thank you! You are the best.

Chia L Rodeski said...

Chef John: I made this dish tonight & it was goodness of heaven! Thank you so much for sharing!! I loved the almond & raisin creativity, it totally added texture & flavor! And the twist of lamp was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!

Unknown said...

Hi, I am from Serbia and this is our dish " Sarma "

It is like this recipe but it is stronger

My compliments to chef, this is best blog ever

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Greetings Chef,

This was surprisingly very easy to make. But even better yet, it was delish to quote my finicky lady-friend.

I did nevertheless forego the lamb since it ain't in my budget and used spicy Italian sausage instead.

Perhaps I should consider making a meal out of one of the many gators lurking about here in Southwest Florida. I could make gator cabbage rolls and nobody would ever know any different!


Unknown said...

I'm middle eastern by descent, and lamb is such a wonderful meat, it's a shame more people do not eat it. I've grown up on recipes similar to the one above.

Many cultures use rice as the grain with the lamb, we, however use bulghur wheat (cracked wheat). One would use approximately the same proportions and the nutritional value goes up, and the flavors divine. Most rice is reasonably flavorless in a dish like this, but bulghur has a characteristic nutty flavor.

Give that a try next time Chef Jon.

Skip Alidon said...

Tried this recipe and could not be more pleased with the outcome! I was so proud of me! I got frisky and added a spoonful of sour cream on each roll and served my company. Made me wish I'd made more than eight rolls.

Clarmindcontrol said...

This has been one of my go-to recipes for two years and counting... It never fails to surprise and delight whoever I serve it too. Though I've found that red cabbage compliments the flavors of the cinnamon and currants even better.

Unknown said...

Great Recipe, Chef!

I am from the middle east and we stuff all sorts of vegetables with minced lamb, as you know. my question is, can I use the recipe or stiffed zucchini too? and if yes, can I layer all the different vegs in the same pan? would that change the cooking time?

Unknown said...

Chef John

You never fail to deliver. I usually make a Hungarian style cabbage roll because my husband is Belgian with a Romanian mother and that's what he ate growing up. But I just made these yesterday and we agree that these are outstanding! I love to cook, and thanks to you my family loves to have me cook! You are my cooking guru. Thanks for bringing so much of your cooking wisdom in such an enjoyable format to the masses on the internet. My life and that of my family is so much the better for it.

Best wishes to you and yours.

OMW2OWN said...

Im gonna sit here and cry... Its looks like sutch a yummy recipe but hubby doesent like lamb and im crazy about it!!
Im not going to make it just for moi :(

Sniff, sniff

Unknown said...

Chef John, would it be possible to use Swiss chard for this recipe? We have enough to feed Coxey's Army growing in our garden, they're too big to do traditional dolmeh, so I'm thinking we can go big with our "party burritos" and bake them as you do in your recipe. Maybe I could parboil the rice so that the chard leaves don't overcook as the rice and meat cook down, as the leaves are more tender? We are also using the tomatoes from the garden. Green zebras and some other variety I picked up at work.

Tom C. said...

This looks to be the first post in six years. I tried this with ground beef instead of lamb because i didn’t have any lamb but liked the spices. It was delicious. And I bet lamb would be a little better, but try it either way!

Sumo Semar said...

Made it last night. Simple, fantastic results. Can omit the almonds and currants if you like and use Chef Jon's 'mystery meat' Doner Kebab recipe, which I did. Two thumbs up.