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Sarmale, Romanian Style

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'Sarmale' is a traditional Romanian dish of leaves (cabbage or vine leaves, pickled or fresh) rolled around a filling which is based on minced meat (pork, beef, lamb, goat, veal and sometimes goose, turkey or duck meat) and rice. In Romania 'sarmale' is a traditional meal for Christmas and other religious holidays. It is found in Turkish, Bulgarian, Serbian and other cuisines too but under the name sarma, which actually means 'a wrapped thing' from the Turkish verb sarmak (to wrap). The suggested amount here will make 50 small rolls.


Suggested minced meat: 1.6lbs (725g) of pork and 8.8oz (250g) of beef, plus:

  • Cabbage (fresh or pickled) or vine leaves.
  • 3-4 chopped onions
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 3.5oz (100g) rice
  • ½-1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon pepper
  • 1-2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig dill (chopped)
  • 1 sprig parsley (chopped)
  • 5 tablespoons tomato juice
  • 4-5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Other herbs as required


Add the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat along with the carrots and onions (finely chopped), fry for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl, mix these ingredients: meat, rice, salt, pepper, thyme, dill and parsley. Add the fried carrots and onions and mix in. Remove the core from the cabbage. In a pan add the water and cabbage (or vine leaves) and heat until they boil. Fill the cabbage leaves with two tablespoons of meat filling and roll to make a nice neat roll. In a large pot (in Romania the best cooking method is slow boiling in large clay pots) add some vegetable oil with some cabbage leaves on top. Arrange the rolls in layers, on top of one another. At the top, add another layer of cabbage leaves and spread tomato juice all over. Now add water to cover (it should reach halfway up the pot). Put a cover on the pot and cook at medium heat for at least 2-2½ hours.


You 'must' serve this with Mamaliga1, sour cream, hot peppers and tuica2 for a true Romanian dish.

1The Romanian name of a dish made from cornflour.2A traditional Romanian alcoholic beverage which is made from plums.

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