Balkan Cuisine

Bulgarian cuisine: Stuffed cabbage leaves

One of the joys of living in Bulgaria is learning the traditional village recipes.  A favourite winter dish across the Balkans is stuffed cabbage leaves. Having preserved cabbages through lactofermentation (see our previous blog), this is a delicious and healthy way to eat them up.  The soft texture and tangy flavour of the lactofermented cabbage gives them a unique taste sensation!  This is a traditional recipe which involves stuffing the leaves with meat and rice.  I make a vegetarian version swapping the meat for peppers, courgettes or whatever vegetable is available.  This recipe comes from The Melting Pot: Balkan Food and Cookery by Maria Kaneva-Johnson.

You'll need:

20 sauerkraut leaves with thick central rib cut away; 2-3 tblsp of sauerkraut liquid (very good for the digestion); 1 tbsp veg oil


400g pork finely minced; an onion finely chopped; 2 tbsp veg oil; 50g round/short grain rice; black pepper

Mix stuffing ingredients together and moisten with a little water.

Lay leaf on flat surface with vein facing up.  Place a ball of stuffing on the vine leaf.  Fold over top of leaf and then sides and roll up tightly.

Put the oil in shallow pan and cover with a few loose cabbage leaves.  Pack stuffed cabbage rolls on top in a single layer. Place a plate on top to hold them down and cover in a mix of water and sauerkraut liquid.  Put a lid on and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender.