Ella makes these cabbage rolls with the same meat sauce she uses for moussaka. The rolls are better in the days after they’ve been made. If you have left-over cabbage leaves and rice mix you can slice and sauté the cabbage in a little oil, add the rice mix and make a pilaf.

Serves 6

1 cabbage
2 cups arborio rice
1⁄2 cup currants
1 cup finely chopped mixed mint, parsley and dill
1 litre chicken stock
2 lemons, juiced
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the meat sauce:
1 brown onion, diced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
350g minced lamb
2 tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)
1⁄2 cup dry red wine
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
1 quill cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 orange, zested
flaked salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To serve:
300g Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
flaked salt

  1. For the meat sauce: start by sautéing the onions in the olive oil in a saucepan for around 15 minutes until golden, then add in the garlic and sauté until aromatic: 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and sauté. Once it’s all browned, add the tomato paste and fry off for around 1 minute.
  3. Pour in the red wine to deglaze, and cook until evaporated.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, cinnamon, bay leaves and orange zest. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook out until most of the liquid has evaporated: around 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, to cook the cabbage, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut out the core of the cabbage and place the rest in the boiling water. As the leaves become tender they should fall away from the cabbage. You want them to be cooked enough that they are able to be rolled without snapping.
  6. Take the cabbage leaves out of the water as they become tender, and place to one side to cool.
  7. Mix your rice, currants and fresh herbs into the meat mix. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Take the cabbage leaves and categorise them into size. Big leaves will need to be cut in half; it’s best if the vein of the leaf is removed as it’s so thick it tends to take a long time to cook. Use any left-over bits of cabbage to line a saucepan that is deep enough to fit all your rolls in.
  9. Take each leaf and spread flat. Place a heaped tablespoon of the rice mix down the end of the leaf closest to you, fold in the sides of the leaves and roll the cabbage leaf up.
  10. Place the rolls in the pan, seam-side down. Repeat the rolling process with the remaining cabbage and filling, making sure all the rolls fit snugly together in the pan. If there are gaps around the rolls, fill them with extra leaves to prevent the rolls from opening while they are cooking.
  11. Once all the mix is finished, weigh down your cabbage rolls with an upside-down plate.
  12. Mix up your stock with lemon juice, olive oil and salt, check for seasoning and then pour over the rolls. Put the pan on the stove over medium heat. The liquid should come up just over the plate; top it up with water if it doesn’t.
  13. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down so they are cooking on a simmer. They should take around 40 minutes to an hour. They should be very tender, the rice totally cooked through. Once they’re cooked, leave them to completely cool in the pan; this will help them keep their shape. Serve warm or at room temperature with garlic yoghurt.

Ela! Ela! (RRP $39.95) is out now through Murdoch Books and available to purchase at great Victorian bookstores like Readings and Paperback Bookshop