Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dinner: Maashi Kromb (stuffed cabbage)



Aaaaaaaaaand nearly a year later, and here I am writing up my first recipe for 2015. I did work on other recipes, but none of them were worthy of this blog, so I finally came across a great recipe during my visit a few weeks ago to Egypt: Maashi Kromb, or stuffed (maashi) cabbage (kromb) in arabic.

I was having lunch with my cousin and she said this was her favourite dish. I've never been a huge stuffed cabbage fan, having only tried the Eastern European variation...so I tried to hide my glimmer of enthusiasm, until I bit into one. Wow. It was amazing. And, unlike all the other maashi dishes I've written up about, the stuffing for this one is without meat (though you can add some if you really want).

After eating this, I found the woman responsible for the meal, the hired help in the house: Umm Mohammed (or Mother of Mohammed, as tradition dictates). I found her in the kitchen and told her it was one of the best meals I've had and asked for her recipe. She was a bit overwhelmed with the sudden attention, since she prepares the main meals every day, but after a bit coaxing, Umm Mohammed got down to business and gave me the details.

But cabbage in Egypt you ask? Actually, good question. I asked myself the same thing and in fact, contrary to what I had originally thought, cabbage has a long history in egyptian cooking. Wild cabbage is a native of the mediterranean, southwestern europe and southern england. All variations thrive along the ocean, where it can receive lots of moisture. So our friends, the Ancient Egyptians, considered cabbage to be one of the most delicate vegetables, and ate it boiled before the rest of their food.

During a visit to ancient Egypt, the Greeks believed their cabbage was superior to that of the Egyptian variety, so they brought along seeds with them from Rhodes. They revered cabbage for its medicinal properties.

All that to say cabbage does in fact have a place in Egyptian cuisine, and it dates back to the ancient times.

But of course,  now, it's more of a question how it is eaten.

As I've mentioned before, egyptians will stuff any vegetable or animal cavity with rice. Hence my previous recipes for stuffed pigeon, stuffed peppers, and stuffed grapeleaves. But this recipe is a rice mixture with dill, parlsely and tomatos.

The tomatos we know came from the new world via the explorers to Egypt.

Rice has been eaten and grown in Egypt since the days of the Pharaohs since it grows in the country.

Dill weed is a member of the parsley family which is native to the eastern Mediterranean region (and western Asia). According to one article I read, the word 'dill' comes from the old Norse (old german) word 'dylla' meaning to soothe or lull, which was found written around 3000 B.C. where it was also mentioned in Egyptian medical texts.

So dill is widely used and historically for centuries.

Parsley, is a native of eastern Mediterranean countries.  It isn't used as much as other herbs in Egyptian cooking. It was likely brought to Egypt by the ancient Romans who may have been the first people to eat parsley. Whereas the Greeks only used parsley for medicinal purposes, as they viewed it with superstition considering it an omen of death.

But it does grow around the mediterranean basin, and was introduced to the new world during the heydays of trade.

Parsely-based foods, such as taboulah are more from the Levante region where parsley is more popular.

But back to maashi kromb.....I won't lie, this is one of the few dishes that takes time to prepare and cook, but it's not an overly complicating recipe. But all the effort is worth it in the end!

______________________________________________
TOTAL PREPARATION TIME: two hours
TOTAL COOKING TIME: one hour
YIELD: 10 persons

INGREDIENTS:
1 head white cabbage
salt
water

Stuffing:
1 onion
1 teaspoon of oil
2 tomatos
2 handfulls of parsley (fresh)
1 handful of dill (fresh)
equal parts of rice to the mixture of short grain rice (italian or egyptian)
salt/pepper

Sauce:
2 tins of tomato concentrate
2 cups of water
1 garlic
1 onion
salt/pepper
_____________________________________________

DIRECTIONS

CABBAGE:
1. Cut the cabbage in half peel back each individual leaf

2. This process can take time....
3. Once you have your individual leaves, place them in a pot of boiling water with a tablespoon of salt
4. Leave them to cook for about an hour, until all the leaves have turned transparent and are soft in texture
5. Drain and put aside


STUFFING

6. Chop onion and sauté it with a bit of oil until it is cooked
7. In a bowl, add cooked onion, parsley and dill, and chopped tomatos


8. Using a chopper (or a blender) blend all ingredients


9. Add an equal part of rice (approximately--does not have to be perfectly measured)
10. Wash the rice then add to the mix
11. Add salt and pepper
12. Mix thoroughly by hand or with a spoon


SAUCE
13. In a pot, add a tablespoon of oil
14. Chop onions and add to pot
15. Crush and finely chop garlic; add to pot
16. Once onions are cooked, add tomato paste
17. Add water
18. Mix well; if sauce seems too thick, add a bit more water
19. Season with salt/pepper

ROLLING
20. Take a cooked cabbage leaf, add about one teaspoon of the mixture, and fold and roll
21. Unlike grapeleaves cabbage leaves are a bit harder to fold nicely, but don't worry, they stay put during the cooking process.
22. Continue process until either all the leaves are done or all the mixture is done


23. Add all the rolled leaves into a deep pot and cover with sauce


24. Leave covered and on medium heat to cook for at least an hour (or longer)
25. Rolls are ready to eat once rice is cooked


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