A winter classic in Turkey and neighboring regions… Spices and herbs used in the meat stuffing varies from town to town, whereas soft and glossy texture of the cabbage remains the same. I made it my grandma’s way, cooked the rolls with the sourest quinces.
1 medium size whole cabbage (try to pick the less veiny, thin layered and soft cored ones)
For the filling:
300 g minced meat,
3 medium onions, grated,
1 cup of rice,
1 tablespoon of tomato paste,
3 tablespoon butter (at room temperature) or vegetable oil,
1/8 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped,
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped,
1/8 cup fresh dill, finely chopped,
1/4 cup fresh (purple or regular) basil, finely chopped,
1 teaspoon black pepper,
1 teaspoon salt,
For the sauce:
1/4 cup of melted butter or vegetable oil,
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1 quince, cored, cut into cubes.
Bring 2 liters of water to boil in a large pot. Prepare another container filled with icy cold water. Stab the cabbage in four places around its core, do not remove the core completely, just cut it loose as if you’re trying to remove it. Try not to cut through the outer layers. Soak the whole cabbage into boiling water. In around 2-3 minutes, as the outer layers loosen up, remove them with your hands one by one, be careful not to burn your hands and not to damage the leaves. Do this until you reach the core. Soak the boiled leaves into cold water, which you put aside. Depending on the type of your cabbage, you might be able to retrieve (almost) flat rollable leaves right through to the core. The ideal rollable leaf would be the size of a palm, rectangular shaped, so cutting the leaves into equal palm-size pieces would be the best thing to do to achieve nicely a rolled bunch of sarma.
Mix all the filling ingredients thoroughly. On a flat surface lay one cabbage leaf, the narrower edge facing yourself. Put one level teaspoon of the filling onto the edge closer to you. Align the filling to form a stick parallel to the edge. Roll firmly. You now have one sarma ready. Do the same until you use up all the filling mix. Line the bottom of a wide pot with the remaining cabbage leaves. Place all the rolls onto those leaves neatly. They should sit next to each other, firm, but not too too tight. Top the rolls with quince cubes. Mix the rest of the sauce ingredients into a bowl, that is, the oil, tomato paste and salt. Add 2 cups of water into the sauce. Mix it and pour over the rolls. Place a flat plate onto the rolls to keep them in place. Cover the lid and bring to boil on medium heat. Lower the heat once it reaches the boiling point, put a stone or something heavy onto the lid to keep the steam inside the pot as much as possible and cook on the lowest heat (almost like candle light) around 40 minutes until the cabbages and rice are tenderly cooked, absorbing almost all of the water. Remove from the heat when done. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Serve warm with bread and yogurt.