This is a classic Russian recipe for cabbage rolls (called golubtsy), which consists of ground beef and rice wrapped in a fresh cabbage leaf and then simmered in a tomato/sour cream sauce. There are countless variations of the recipe, including the use of other meats, addition of mushrooms, buckwheat, or even vegetarian versions. Feel free to experiment to your heart’s content. I just want to share two points. First, make sure that there is not more than 50% of rice in the filling. Too much mushy rice with not enough meat is just not going to taste good. Err on the side of less rice 🙂 Second, cabbage rolls are not meant to be tiny, but shouldn’t be ridiculously huge either. When deciding how much filling to add to each cabbage leaf, keep in mind that rice will expand when cooking, making the cabbage rolls bigger during the cooking process.
This recipe makes 5-8 cabbage rolls (depending on the size of cabbage leaves)
1 head of cabbage
1 lb ground beef
½ cup long-grain rice
1 small onion
1 small carrot
3 cups beef stock (optional)
1 can tomato sauce
3-4 tbsp sour cream
Chopped parsley, to serve
Add boiling water to rice and let stand for 30 min, to soak rice. Alternatively, add cold water to rice and leave to soak in the fridge overnight. After rice is done soaking, rinse it until the water runs clear.
Meanwhile, separate 5-8 cabbage leaves from the head of cabbage by cutting them off at the stalk. To make cabbage leaves more pliable and easier to roll up, thin the tough central vein by cutting off some of the vein thickness near the leaf base. To further soften the leaves, boil them in water for 5 min, or steam for 5 min. Let cool until they are comfortable to touch. This step can also be done the night before and leaves kept in the fridge until they are needed.
Meanwhile, finely chop onion and grate carrot. Coat the bottom of the frying pan with oil and fry the onions and carrot mixture until onions are translucent and carrots are limp. Put into a large bowl and let cool.
To that same bowl, add ground beef, soaked and rinsed rice, and salt to taste. Mix well.
Add a small fistful of the rice-and-meat mixture to the base of each cabbage leaf. Tuck in the sides and make a roll. Choose a pot that will snugly fit all cabbage rolls in a single layer and put all cabbage rolls there.
In a small saucepan, combine beef stock or water, tomato sauce, sour cream, and salt to taste. Whisk the mixture together and bring to boil. Add the heated sauce to the pot with cabbage rolls. Add enough stock or water to completely cover the cabbage rolls.
Bring to boil and then simmer for 40 min. Serve with chopped parsley.