Sarmale(cabbage stuffed with mince) – a traditional romanian dish

What you can see above is how my hubby eats sarmale.
Sarmale is THE Signature dish for Romania.
Every time we visit home or my mum visits us in London she makes us a batch of  “sarmale”.
And when i say a batch i am talking about 100.
So what are the “sarmale”? Stuff cabbage or vine leaves with mince.
This time around my mum cooked them with sweet cabbage.
– 1 white cabbage
-1kg. minced meat (beef/pork+beef)
-2 fine chopped onions
-2 tablespoons of rice
-2 tablespoons of tomato sauce
-salt,pepper,crushed dill


In a big bowl mix the mince of your choice with the onions, rice ,salt, pepper, dill and tomato paste. Add the rice at the end after the rest of the ingredients are mixed well.
Put the meat on the side while tou prepare the cabbage leafs.
Warm water in a pot until it begins to boil. While the water is boiling, core the cabbage with a knife. When the water is done remove from the hob and dip the cabbage in the pot while the water is hot and let it sit there for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove the top layers of the cabbage with two forks and let the cabbage soak more in hot water and repeat this process until you get near the core of the cabbage where the leaves are too small to work with.
You need a decently sized leaf to be able to wrap up the ingredients inside it.
Take leaf by leaf and cut the stump off. If the leaf to big then cut the leafs in 2 and wrap the filling with the cabbage leaves.
Before you start filling the leafs make sure that they are left to cool.
To prepare each roll, place the mixture on a cabbage leaf and fold the leaf over, then roll it into a cylindrical shape and press with your finger on each side for the cabbage to go inside.  Ensure also that the mixture is tightly packed inside of the cabbage leaf.
The stump and the cabbage that you didn’t use cut them in small  pieces and put them on the bottom of a pot that has a thick bottom and a lid.
Above these,put the cabbage roles 1 by 1 so you make a “floor” of them in the pot. My mum always numbers the sarmale as she says it is good luck if she remembers. Superstition i know.
Keep making floors till you have used all of the cabbage rolls.
At the end add water to cover them up.
Let them boil for 30-45 minutes covered.
It is very important not to let the water boil too heavily as otherwise they will break.
After about half an hour, remove the cover from the pot and take one of the rolls out to sample the meat and the rice to see if they are sufficiently cooked.
If they aren’t, you will have to leave them for another 15 minutes in the boiling pot.
After this time in the pot your sarmale should be done.

You can serve them like my husband with a bit of pepper(the english way maybe) or like romanians do with a chilli and some polenta.

Anyway you choose to serve and eat them they are just yummy!

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