Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sandra's Famous Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage -- IP Style

My dear friend Sandra is a phenomenal cook. She makes incredible dishes seem magically easy, and she does it with great love. My 9 year old is completely obsessed with everything she makes and drools while talking about her specialties. To be fair, I dream about this dish too. So when my son's birthday rolled around this year, he was not shy about insisting I make him Sandra's world famous Malfouf, middle eastern style stuffed cabbage. As my dear husband and I are both on Ideal Protein, I had to adjust the recipe a bit. 

Did it live up to Sandra's magic? It definitely wasn't the same, but I'm guessing it wouldn't have been even if I followed her every instruction. But, it was amazingly delicious and we enjoyed it for several days. I know it's way better with 80/20 ground meat, and of course with rice, but this version captures the overall essence and I know Sandra will be proud of my diet and the adaptation. The meat is spiced so deliciously, and the cabbage leaves have an amazing silky texture. I ran out of cabbage leaves and subbed swiss chard for some of the rolls. It turned out great and turns out that Sandra's mom used to do the same thing!!

FYI: This is a labor intensive dish. Not so difficult, but it does take about 2 hours to prepare. Also, I made a huge batch. I figured I may as well make a ton and enjoy for a few nights. You could easily cut this recipe in half if you like. I promise--this dish is so worth it.

Sandra's Famous Malfouf (Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage) -- Ideal Protein Style
1 large head white cabbage, plus two bundles of swiss chard
4  bouillon cubes (I used chicken)
3 pounds extra lean ground beef

2 cups shredded cauliflower (sort of like the rice)
6 tablespoons allspice
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cinnamon
20 garlic cloves
3 lamb chops
Salt to taste
1/4 cup olive Oil
Juice of two lemons

1. Remove core from cabbage head, place in an 8-quart saucepan filled with boiling salted water. Once cabbage leaf is parboiled and soft, carefully take cabbage leaves off one at a time.  VERY IMPORTANT: do NOT overcook the cabbage leaves or they will fall apart when rolling.   With a knife trim thick vein and cut leaves in half.  Generally each cabbage leaf makes 2 rolls.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add ground beef, shredded cauliflower, spices, salt and olive oil. Mix well with hands. In a stockpot brown lamb chops and leave on bottom of pan to cool.  (you will stack cabbage rolls on top of the lamb chops.)
3. Place 2 tablespoons of meat mixture in the middle of each leaf. Fold in each small side then roll the long sides into a cigar shape. Carefully place each roll into stockpot (on top of the cooked lamb chops), tightly together. After you have made one level add a few pieces of garlic, continue doing this until your last level is complete.
4. Once I ran out of cabbage leaves, I used the swiss chard leaves for the rest of the meat. I didn't boil those up, though. I just took out the rib and used the raw leaves. I could get several rolls out of each large leaf.
5.  On top of all of the rolls, add salt, lemon, and the bouillon cubes.  Cover with a plate. This step is important so cabbage rolls not float when you add the boiling water.
6.  Finally, add boiling water until it covers the top level of your top row.
7. Cover pot with a lid and cook on high until rolls come to a rolling boil then turn heat down to medium for 45 minutes or until rolls and meat mixture are fork tender.
8.  Once cooked, cool pot and flip onto large platter.

Serve with mint and cucumber salad, and lots of lemon wedges. The lemon really makes this dish! If you are not on phase 1, you could also serve with plain greek yogurt (of course if you aren't on IP, you want the real recipe!).


Yields: 30-50 rolls


  1. wow! so pleased I found your blog, this is an amazing recipe! I love the way you cook the rolls on top of the lamb chops......going to give it a shot. I love this flavor profile, but 6tbsp of all spice is intense! I trust your recipe though, I sense this makes more food than I imagine.

    Do you think I can halve it, and use a smaller pan to steam or do you think it will be a mistake?

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. This recipe is based on a dear friend's and she is an amazing cook.

      You an definitely halve this. For the spices, you don't want to go too easy because the meat can end up bland. Add half and see how you think it smells. It should be very fragrant when raw to be sure it is flavorful after cooking. If you can't smell the spices, add some of the rest until you feel comfortable. I always use a lot.

      Let me know how they turn out--this is one of my favorite dishes.