It was my youngest daughter’s 2nd birthday today and to top it off I decided to make these delicate stuffed cabbage rolls with Maltese cheese (ricotta as an alternative). A beautiful old tradition which I am passing on to my girls.
Traditionally Maltese cabbage rolls are filled with one of two fillings. Gbejniet (Maltese cheese) or ricotta as an alternative, and the other filling is mince pork or beef. I prepared both fillings but only managed to fill my cabbage leaves with the cheese mixture. I had prepared the Maltese cheese last night so that it was ready this morning. My meat mixture has been put into the freezer for use another time.
Also, I divided my cheese mixture and added sultanas to half of the mixture and the other half I added fennel seeds (used in Maltese cooking and great with cabbage). I have seen sultanas added in other mixtures such as stuffed vine leaves with rice and meat, and also added to stuffed cabbage rolls with meat and rice too . Perhaps the addition to our ricotta mixture has come from these traditions. It really does complement the cabbage rolls well as long as you don’t add too many.
I served my cabbage rolls with a simple tomato sauce.
Cabbages are readily available most times of the year but are now in season in this part of the world. Cabbages were one of many things grown on our farm in the colder months in Australia. I used white cabbage but also gave red cabbage a try as I thought the red cabbage would go nicely with the added sultanas. The leaves were a little too thick. Perhaps I will give that option a miss next time. I recently have seen kale, nasturtium and chard being stuffed. Not traditional but nothing is stopping you. We have become so adventurous in our older years.
Cabbage rolls are prepared and cooked in many different countries and the most common I see is with meat and rice, or just a rice mixture. Every time I think of cabbage rolls I think of my Macedonian friends in Australia who would always serve (among many other things) cabbage rolls at different special occasions. What a food feast they would always put on. It really was special.
Hopefully, next time I can share my Maltese cabbage rolls stuffed with meat recipe too.
- 2 - 3 large white cabbages
- 800 grams Maltese cheeselets (about 8) or ricotta if you can't get the cheeselets
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons sultanas
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- Half an lemon finely grated
- 500 ml passata
- 1 onion finely chopped
- Small bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Remove the core of the cabbages and gently pry the leaves to separate.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water add the cabbage leaves and boil for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and leave the leaves in the water for a further 15 minutes.
- Drain and set aside.
- Prepare your cheese mixture by mixing the cheeselets with the grated cheese, eggs and some seasoning.
- Divide the cheese mixture into two. In one mixture add the fennel seeds and the other mixture add the sultanas and lemon zest.
- Add some oil into two large dishes (if using two mixtures, if only using one mixture then only one dish is required).
- Take one cabbage leaf at a time and add a tablespoon of mixture at the end of the leaf. Firstly fold the sides of the cabbage leaf into the centre and then roll the leaf around the cheese mixture.
- Place into the dish
- Continue to do this until all of the mixture has been used up (make sure to separate the two different cabbage rolls with different fillings into two dishes). Place each cabbage roll tightly next to each other until the dish has been filled. It is fine to add the cabbage rolls on top of each other.
- Drizzle with a little more olive oil and seasoning.
- Simmer gently for 35 - 45 minutes until the bottom of the cabbage rolls are slightly golden. The egg and cheese melds into the cabbage rolls.
- While the rolls are simmering prepare your tomato sauce.
- In a small pan or pot fry the onions in olive oil for 10 minutes.
- Add the passata and gently simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Add the parsley to the sauce once the passata has finished simmering.
- Once the rolls have finished cooking serve with the tomato sauce.