Spiced lamb and rice cabbage leaves

Spiced lamb and rice cabbage leaves

The Art Of The Larder
Mike Lusmore

Herewith Yildiz’s legendary Cypriot lamb recipe.


Quantity Ingredient
2 medium onions, finely diced
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
400g minced lamb
150g basmati rice
a small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
1 lemon, grated zested
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sumac, (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
1 large savoy cabbage, leaves separated
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, drained of their juice
200ml chicken stock or boiling water
40g butter

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
250g greek yoghurt, seasoned with salt
a small bunch fresh dill, leaves roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 lemon, cut into wedges


  1. Fry the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a good heavy-bottomed saucepan for about 8–10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add t he garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes more. Put to one side in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the lamb, in batches if you have an especially small pan, until nicely browned. Add the cooked lamb to the reserved onion mix, and repeat until all the mince is browned off.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the kettle. Put 1 tablespoon of oil into another saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. When the oil is hot, add the rice and give it a brisk stir for 30 or so seconds, to coat all the grains in the hot oil. Add 300ml of boiling water, let the rice bubble up, then put the lid on the pan. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook until the water has completely evaporated and the rice is cooked. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked rice to the minced lamb and onions, then add the parsley, lemon zest, cinnamon, allspice, oregano and sumac, if using, and give the ingredients a good and thorough mix – with your hands is best. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. In a large pan of salted boiling water, cook the bigger cabbage leaves a couple at a time until tender, about 2 minutes for the outer dark green leaves, less for the pale inner ones. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to drain well.
  6. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, remove any of the larger firm cores from the tough outer leaves, as these will hinder rolling and make for a less flexible leaf.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  8. Place about 2 heaped tablespoons of the lamb mix in the centre of each cabbage leaf and roll it up like a fat cigar. Place the cabbage rolls seam side down in a large baking dish or lidded casserole, side by side in one layer.
  9. Tear or chop the drained whole tomatoes into smaller pieces and pop these in among the cabbage rolls.
  10. Heat the stock or boiling water and pour it evenly over the cabbage rolls. Cover with foil or a lid and put into the oven for 45–60 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, melt the butter over a moderate heat in a small saucepan until nut-brown sediments begin to fall away to the bottom of the pan. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Set to one side.
  12. Remove from the oven and let it rest for around 15 minutes. This dish is best eaten warm, not piping hot. When ready to serve, spoon the seasoned yoghurt over the cabbage rolls, pour over the browned butter, and sprinkle with dill, dried mint and chilli flakes, to taste. Serve with the remaining lemon half, cut into wedges.
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