One of the foods that I regret I didn't make more often this winter is these Stuffed Cabbage Rolls In Egg & Lemon Sauce. It's really one of the best, Greek wintry comfort foods.
These cabbage rolls are filled with ground beef, rice, and fresh herbs. Slowly cooked with extra virgin oil olive oil, and served with a creamy egg & lemon sauce. It's one of those foods that are very fulfilling yet feel very light and nourishing.
In Greece, we call them "Lahanodolmades" (lahano=cabbage, dolmades=rolls), with "Avgolemono" (avgo=egg, lemono=lemon).
The Egg & Lemon sauce (which I must say we love to use in making soups and stews in Greece), goes amazingly well with the flavor of boiled cabbage. Believe me and you won't be able to stop dipping bread in this sauce, it's so yummy!
This dish is very similar to the Traditional Greek Youvarlakia Avgolemono (Meatball Soup With Rice, Egg & Lemon).
How To Make Greek Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
What You Can Do With Leftover Cabbage
Since the center leaves of the cabbage are too small to be used for making cabbage rolls you can use the leftover cabbage head to make Lahanorizo. A traditional Greek cabbage and rice dish. Or use them when making vegetable stock. Another great thing you can do is to shred the cabbage and then saute it in a pot with a splash of olive oil. Pour in some vinegar on top and make a quick sour cabbage. Which goes great with a pan-fried Greek sausage!
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe In Egg-Lemon Sauce (Lahanodolmades Avgolemono)
For The Filling:
- 800 grams / 28.2 ounce lean ground beef
- 2 small (about 40 grams /1.4 oz) spring onions finely chopped
- 80 grams / 2.8 oz leek finely chopped
- 1 small (about 75 grams) red onion minced
- 6 tablespoons (40 ml) olive oil
- 5 tablespoons (85 grams / 3 oz) short grain white rice
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- kosher salt and ground pepper
For The Cabbage Rolls:
- 1 large (about 3 kg /6 lb 9.8 oz) white cabbage
- 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 500 ml vegetable stock
For The Egg-Lemon Sauce:
- 6 tablespoons (50 grams / 1.7 oz) extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons (50 grams / 1.7 oz) flour
- 2 medium-sized eggs
- 70 grams / 2.4 oz lemon juice fresh
- ½ lemon zested
For The Filling:
- In a mixing bowl add all of the ingredients for the filling and mix very well. Cover and set aside while you prepare the cabbage.
Prepare The Cabbage:
- Half-fill a large cooking pot (one that fits the cabbage) with water. Season with a bot of kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Remove the stem of the cabbage with a sharp knife creating a deep hole.
- Once the water in the pot is boiling drop the heat to medium. Place the cabbage in a cooking pot with the hole facing down.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes. Then using a large pasta fork poke the cabbage and carefully flip it upside down.
- Boil the cabbage for 3-4 minutes more. Then place a large pan next to the pot and carefully transfer the cabbage to the pan.
- Wait for a few minutes to cool slightly and then start to remove the outer leaves that have softened. Once you get towards the center of the cabbage where the leaves are still hard place the cabbage back in the pot with the boiling water.
- Boil the cabbage again for a couple of minutes on each side. Then transfer to the pan again and remove the remaining leaves. Leaving the center of the cabbage with the small leaves aside.
- NOTE: Do not discard the water you boiled the cabbage in. Keep it on the heat and if there is any cabbage leaf that feels too raw just dip it in and cook for a minute. Also, the cabbage water will be used to cook the cabbage rolls so keep it aside.
- Let the cabbage leaves cool down to room temperature so you'll be able to handle them.
For The Cabbage Rolls:
- Start with the bigger leaves the ones that feel easier to handle and leave smaller ones for the end to use for covering the bottom of the pot.
- Take a large cabbage leaf and lay it flat on your working surface. Remove the harder part from the center. Take about 60 grams / 2.1 oz of the ground meat mixture and shape it into an oval-shaped meatball.
- Place it on the bottom end of the leaf and then overlap the end of the leaf over the filling. Tuck in the sides and start to roll it upwards firmly but not too tightly.
- NOTE: The first outer leaves may be too big for just one cabbage roll and you will need to cut them in half. For those (half) leaves use about 50 grams / 1.7 oz of filling.
- Place the roll in a pan aside. Keep making rolls until you run out of filling.
- Then use the leftover leaves and scrapes to cover the bottom of a large cooking pot. I've used one that has a wide 29 cm / 11-inch opening, so it fits a dinner plate inside (which will be used to prevent the rolls from unwrapping while they cook). If you plan on using a narrower cooking pot just make sure you have a plate that fits inside.
- Place the cabbage rolls in the pot tightly close to each other with seam side down. You should end up with two layers of cabbage rolls.
- Place the plate on top (back side of the plate facing up) to keep them in place. Then pour the vegetable stock into the pot through the side of the plate, and some of the cabbage water you saved. When you press the rolls down with the plate they should sink under the liquid. Otherwise, add a bit more cabbage water or vegetable stock.
- Pour in the olive oil as well and place the pot on the heat. Turn the heat to medium and put the lid on the pot, leaving it slightly open on the side. Cook for about 50 minutes to 1 hour from the time it starts to bubble. If your stove is too strong or you are using a gas stove it's better to keep the heat to medium-low so it doesn't boil too strongly.
- Turn the heat off. Carefully remove the hot plate from the pot. Tilt the pot to the side and with a ladle start to remove liquid from the pot and add it to a measuring cup. You don't have to remove all the liquid from the pot. About 500-600 ml is enough.
For The Egg & Lemon Sauce:
- In a small mixing bowl beat the eggs with a whisk. Pour in the lemon juice and lemon zest, and mix until frothy.
- In a saucepan whisk together the flour and olive oil.
- Heat flour mixture over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly with a whisk. Then turn the heat to low and pour in the liquid from the measuring cup.
- Stir for a minute until it starts to become creamy. Then remove the saucepan from the heat. Start to pour it very slowly into the eggs while constantly stirring the eggs with a whisk. NOTE: If you add the liquid into the eggs too swiftly they will curdle so do this very slowly and while you keep stirring the eggs vigorously.
- Once you have added all of the creamy mixture to the eggs, pour the sauce into the pot containing the cabbage rolls. Don't pour it on top of the rolls but on the sides so it gets mixed with the liquid that is still left at the bottom of the pot.
- Turn the heat to low and put the lid on the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes more. Tilt and shake the pot a couple of times for the sauce to mix evenly.
- Serve with plenty of freshly ground pepper on top!
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