1 onion (chopped)
1 carrot (grated)
250 gr walnuts (ground)
150 gr rice
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more when assembling the dish
1/2 tablespoon vegetable soup concentrate
1 teaspoon paprika powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
leaves from 1 big cabbage (preferably pickled)
3 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice (if you don’t use pickled cabbage)
400 gr greek yogurt for serving
In a large bowl, mix together the chopped onions with the carrots, walnuts, rice, olive oil and paprika powder. Mix the vegetable concentrate with 1/2 cup of hot water and gradually add it to the mixture. The mixture should be creamy. Season with pepper and add more salt if necessary.
For the cabbage, it is best to use pickled cabbage (sauerkraut). If you are using normal cabbage, first cut the leaves and then boil them in salty water for about 5 minutes until tender but still crisp. Drain the leaves and let cool. From each cabbage leaf, trim the main vein such that the leaf is flat. Set aside one large leaf.
Start preparing the sarmale. For each sarma, take one cabbbage leaf (or a half, depending on size) and place 1 tablespoon of the rice filling in the center. Fold the right side of the leaf over filling, roll the leaf, and then with the index finger gently tuck inside the left side of the leaf to make a roll. Continue preparing the sarmale until all the composition is used.
Chop the cabbage trimmings and any leftover cabbage. Take a big pot (or an oven tray if you are cooking in the oven). Add a bit of olive oil on the bottom of the dish and a layer of chopped cabbage. Arrange a layer of sarmale on top, seam side down. Continue with a layer of chopped cabbage, then sarmale, and so on until you have added all the sarmale. The last layer should be of chopped cabbage. Add some olive oil on top and cover everything with the large leaf set aside before. Add water just until the middle of the dish; if you are not using picked cabbage, first add some salt and the vinegar (or lemon juice) to the water.
Cover the pot with a lid and place on high heat until it starts to boil. Then reduce the heat and continue cooking on a medium-low heat for at least 2 hours. If the water is getting out, take out some of the water, but add it back in when the water level drops. You can also add more water when the level is too low.
Another possibility is to cook them in the oven for at least 2-3 hours. And a third possibility is to cook them first on the stove and then in the oven 🙂
Opinions are very different about how long the sarmale should cook, in general one cooks them on a low heat for a whole afternoon. And the longer they cook the better they are. The sarmale are done when the cabbage is fully cooked.
Serve with smantana (or sour cream or greek yoghurt) and mamaliga (polenta).