Culinary Connections | Trans-Europe

Cabbage Rolls

From Belarus to the Caucasus via Moldova across the Balkans to the Baltic Sea into Scandinavia, the tradition of making stuffed cabbage rolls is alive and well.

Generally the filling is meat and rice with herbs and spices, but there is also a tradition of using grains, legumes and vegetables.


1.5 kg cabbage, cored
1 litre water, for cooking whole cabbage
500 ml (approximately) water, 
for cooking cabbage parcels
400 g bulgar, cooked
400 g onions, chopped small
100 g tomato paste
30 g butter
15 g cilantro, chopped
15 g lovage, chopped
15 g paprika flakes
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Salt, large pinch
Sunflower oil, for frying

Put the cabbage and one litre of water in a large pot, cover and bring to the boil, strain, cool and separate leaves from the head.

Cut out the bumped rib from each leaf.

Sauté onion in oil over a low heat for 30 minutes until it begins to brown and crisp, leave to cool.

Mix the bulgar, onions and half the tomato paste in a large bowl, add the herbs, spices and seasonings, knead for five minutes.

Place a tablespoon of this mixture at the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll into a cylinder shape. Repeat with remaining leaves and filling.

Arrange in layers in a large pot, cover with remaining tomato paste, butter and sufficient water, place a plate that will fit inside the pot, put the lid on cook over a low heat for an hour.

Serve with yoghurt.


These cabbage rolls are made throughout the Balkans using the traditional cabbage varieties of collard and rastan grown in the region.

1 litre meat stock
1.5 kg collard/rastan
400 g shoulder beef, minced
200 ml oil
150 g onions, chopped small
80 g rice
15 g parsley, chopped
5 g salt
Pepper, pinch
Water, for washing and cooking leaves

Fill a large bowl with ice cold water.Carefully separate leaves from the collard/rastan head.

Cut out the bumped rib from each leaf, then blanch in salted boiling water for three minutes. Immerse quickly in cold water, drain and set aside.

Combine the beef, oil, onions, parsley, rice and seasonings in a bowl, knead until the fat starts to separate.

Place 75 g of mixture at the base of each leaf, roll to shape the filling into a cylinder, fold in each end and roll again.

Arrange together in one layer in the bottom of a steamer. Add stock to the pot and steam for 65 minutes. Repeat until all the wraps are done.

Alternatively, arrange in layers in a large pot, cover with stock and cook over a low heat for two hours.

Kāpostu Tīteņi Golubci

The art of the cabbage roll has been refined through years of practice and the tradition of passing secrets from mother to daughter, nowhere more so than in northern Europe.

In Latvia their cabbage roll tradition is unique.

1.5 kg cabbage, cored
250 g beef, minced
250 g pork, minced
200 ml sour cream
125 g onions, chopped small
2 eggs, beaten
60 g flour, for dredging
50 g tomato paste
50 g white bread, soaked, drained
15 g cumin seeds
15 g potato starch
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Salt, large pinch
Sunflower oil, for frying
Water, for cooking the cabbage

Bring a kettle of water to the boil.

Put the cabbage in a large pot, pour over the hot water, cover and cook for ten minutes, until the leaves start to separate from the head. Strain, reserve the cooking liquid.

Remove the leaves. Using a meat mallet, carefully tenderise the bumped rib of each leaf, without breaking the leaf. Set leaves aside.

Combine the meat with the cumin seeds, bread and onions, mix in the eggs, potato starch and seasonings.

Place a tablespoon of this mixture at the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll into a cylinder shape.

Dredge each cylinder parcel in flour, set aside on a floured plate.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Brown the parcels on all sides over a medium heat.

Transfer to a deep casserole dish.

Stir the cream into half of the cooking liquid, and pour over the cabbage parcels, adding more liquid if necessary.

Cover the casserole, bake for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove the cabbage parcels from the casserole dish, drain the liquid into a saucepan.

Pour in the tomato paste, reduce over a medium heat, season.