Tag Archive | stuffing

Malfuf Mahshi: Stuffed Cabbage

It’s snowing for the first time this winter in Istanbul, and as I sit here watching everything become buried under a layer of thick, white fluff, I think of winters in Minnesota: the crisp air, cold feet, wearing a million layers, frozen nose hairs, peppermint mochas, shoveling the driveway, baking cardamom cookies, my sister’s leg warmers, stinging red cheeks, lemon-ginger tea, slippers, and obviously, the snow.

Sometime around the beginning of last year, I was making stuffed cabbage in Minnesota during a beautiful snowfall just like this one. Stuffed leaves of any kind are great in all weather, but winter is when things like cabbage, collard greens, kale, and chard are at their prime. These kinds of leaves are much easier to stuff and roll than grape leaves (which are best made in the spring anyway), because they tend to be larger, and you don’t have to worry about folding in the edges to keep the stuffing from falling out during cooking.

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Minnesota snowfall, 2011: the Mississippi and our backyard

I can see the snow still falling endlessly outside my window, and it seems like a good time to post my recipe for stuffed cabbage in a simple broth. You can use it for other winter greens as well, and you can always mix tomato sauce into the cooking liquid if you’d prefer, since some people don’t like plain broth. This recipe is best served hot, although I’ve included a vegetarian variation at the end of this post that is delicious as a cold side or appetizer.

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Malfuf Mahshi

1 medium sized cabbage

half a batch of my stuffing recipe

approx. 4-5 cups of good quality meat or chicken broth seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, although you can use vegetable broth if you like

two tablespoons of allspice or “mixed baharat”

10 cloves of garlic, peeled

5-6 lamb or beef chops/ribs or any kind of bone-in meat (optional but adds good flavor) – I know some people use oxtails

Method

Core your cabbage. You can do this by either hollowing out the center with a knife, or by quartering the cabbage and cutting out the core. The cabbage I used here was quite small, so I just hollowed out the center, although with bigger ones it can be pretty difficult to do.

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Boil the whole cabbage or the quarters in water until the leaves become tender and pliable. I like to add a spoonful of cumin powder to the boiling water.

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Remove from pot, strain. Separate the leaves out. Cut out any large, tough stems from each leaf. Do not discard!

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Put a few spoonfuls of oil in the bottom of a large cooking pot, then use the stems you just cut out to line the bottom of the pot so the cabbage leaves don’t stick and burn. Also layer your meat pieces on top, if you’re using them.

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Place a small amount of stuffing onto each leaf, and roll it up like a cigar. Layer the rolls quite tightly in your pot.

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Combine the allspice with the broth, then pour it over the cabbage. The liquid should just surpass the top layer of cabbage, so make sure to add enough broth or top it up with water if necessary. Sprinkle in the garlic cloves.

Put the pot on high heat and let the broth come to a boil, then turn the heat down, put a heavy plate directly on top of the cabbage to ensure that it’s all pressed down, and cover the pot with a lid. Let it cook on low heat for about an hour to an hour and a half. The cooking time will vary, so test a cabbage roll by cutting it open and checking if the rice inside is fully cooked. If not, let it cook more.

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Serve steaming hot with plenty of lemon wedges and fresh yogurt.

Yalanji: a vegetarian alternative

Mix up a stuffing of rice OR bulgur; chopped mint, parsley, and dill; very finely diced tomato, cucumber, and carrot; grated onion, pine nuts, salt, pepper, allspice, a pinch of cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, and a few tablespoons of olive oil.

Use this to stuff the leaves, then cook them just like in the recipe above, using vegetable broth or water for cooking mixed with a quarter cup of olive oil.

Fun fact: yalancı (pronounced ya-lawn-juh) is Turkish for liar. I guess the vegetarian stuffed leaves are lying because they’re pretending to be proper mahshi but they don’t actually have meat in them ;)

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Ramadan Desserts: ‘Atayif

Ramadan is almost over and we’re ending it this year with a sweet treat called ‘atayif (really spelled qatayif), which are special little pancakes filled with a variety of stuffings, then deep-fried and sweetened with sugar syrup. In Jordan, this dessert is only made during Ramadan. There, you can buy the pancakes ready-made, and all you have to do is stuff them and fry them yourself. I have not been able to find the pre-made cakes around where I live in Turkey, so I made them from scratch. They’re surprisingly easy to make, and very delicious. Although I received a lot of diverse recipes and recommendations from friends and family when I asked around about how to make the pancake batter, the particular recipe I’m sharing here is one that I’ve found to be generally standard in Palestinian households. It incorporates semolina and mahlab spice* into the batter, two things I really love (major credit goes to Khalto M. for recipe help)!

*Mahlab spice, made from the ground seed kernels of a particular variety of cherry, is used in lots of Middle Eastern cuisines to give baked goods and desserts a special flavor. For me, the signature smell of mahlab always conjures up memories of baking date cookies for Eid. If you can’t find it in the Middle Eastern section of your grocery store, you can omit it from the recipe below.

‘Atayif

In a bowl, combine 1 cup each of flour, semolina, water, and warm milk, as well as one teaspoon of yeast, and one teaspoon of mahlab spice. Mix well.

Cover and let rise for a couple of hours. When ready to make the pancakes, uncover and give the batter a stir. You can add a bit of water if it’s too thick. It should have a slightly runny consistency.

Heat an ungreased, non-stick griddle or frying pan on medium-low heat. Ladle out some batter onto the griddle and spread it around in a circle to your desired size (mine were about 2.5  inches in diameter).

Let it cook on one side; bubbles will start to appear all over the side facing up. Once the entire surface is covered with bubbles and cooks through, remove the pancake from the griddle. Do not flip over and cook on the “bubbly” side!

Cover the cooked pancakes with plastic wrap as you continue to make the rest, so that they don’t dry out and become difficult to work with later on.

To stuff, place a little bit of filling in the middle and fold the pancake over, pinching the edges with your fingers to close tightly. The cakes should be moist and the edges will glue together easily. The traditional fillings are:

1) crushed walnuts mixed with cinnamon and a bit of sugar syrup, to sweeten

2) sweet dessert cheese – we used unsalted mozzarella because that is what was available here, but you can use ‘akkawi cheese if you have it, or even ricotta (mixed with a little bit of cornstarch to keep it held together)

My husband likes combining cheese and walnuts in one – not very traditional but tasty :) !

Once folded up, fry them in oil on medium-low heat until golden brown on each side.

Take them out, and quickly drizzle with sugar syrup to taste. Serve hot!

Some people prefer to bake them instead of frying them for a healthier alternative. I always fry :D

Sugar Syrup: in a saucepan, combine one part sugar with half part water. Stir then heat up until it starts to boil, then add a squeeze of lemon juice. Let boil for about a minute, then remove from heat and let cool. It will thicken to a proper syrup once it cools completely.

Variation: to make another type of ‘atayif that does not require deep-frying, make the pancakes following the recipe above, but make them smaller in size (about half the size). Once cooked, fold each pancake in half, and start pinching the edges together 3/4 of the way up, leaving an opening at the end. Spoon a bit of fresh cream (gaimar or clotted cream or kaymak) into the opening to fill the cake, then dip the open part into crushed pistachios and arrange on a plate. Drizzle with cooled sugar syrup when ready to serve. These are called ‘atayif ‘asafeeri.

Keep Stuffing: Stuffed Eggplants

So to keep with the whole stuffing theme, I’m posting my aunt Hanan’s recipe for another kind of mahshi (stuffed vegetables): stuffed eggplants. The steps are very similar to the stuffed turnips recipe, but this one calls for less ingredients.

Eggplants occupy a special place in my heart. They have the most amazing taste, and a very rich, creamy texture. The simplest way Palestinians fix eggplant is to fry slices in hot oil till they turn golden, then garnish them with crushed garlic, lemon juice, and hot chili peppers. We serve this with bread, and you have the simplest, most delicious melt-in-your-mouth meal ever. Aside from that, there is a multitude of ways to prepare eggplant, ranging from layering it between tomatoes and ground beef like a casserole, to pickling it with a stuffing of walnuts and ground hot chilis.

It is such a versatile vegetable, and an absolute pleasure to consume.

Of course, in keeping with their love of stuffed things, my Khalili relatives make stuffed eggplants at least once a month (usually more, especially if my uncle Abed happens to get a good deal on eggplants at the vegetable market and comes home with 30 lbs of the stuff, to the exasperated groans of my aunt). So here you go: Batinjan Mahshi!

Note: In Palestine and Jordan, they use medium-sized to large, round-shaped eggplants for stuffing. When I made stuffed eggplants recently and took pictures for this blog, we only had a slender, long, kind on hand that was somewhat like a Japanese variety. Worked just fine.

Ingredients (serves approx 5)

1 batch of Best Mahshi Stuffing Ever

approx 9 lbs of eggplants

2/3 cup salt

6-7 cups pureed tomatoes (puree fresh tomatoes in a blender/food processor for best taste)

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 cup of water or stock (beef/lamb/chicken/vegetable)

salt&pepper to taste


Method

Cut the green tops off the eggplants. Using a ma’warah (coring tool), core the eggplants, removing as much of the insides as possible without poking a hole through the skin. If the eggplants are big enough, you might be able to use a spoon to help make the process faster.

As you can see, the eggplants we had on hand were this slender type that were unfortunately very difficult to core without poking holes through the skins or cracking them near the tops.

Discard the insides of the eggplants.

Try not to crack the eggplants near the "mouth," like I did here. Little cracks like these can expand with cooking and make the whole eggplant burst.

Next, fill a big bowl with water and add the 2/3 cup of salt, stirring until the salt dissolves completely. Take each eggplant and dunk it in the salty water, letting it become completely immersed, before removing it and putting it off to the side for stuffing.

Stuff the eggplants with the rice stuffing, making sure to leave about an inch worth of space at the top for the rice to expand upon cooking. Insert slices of tomato to plug the mouths of the eggplants so the stuffing doesn’t fall out.

You will need a large pot to cook the eggplants. When making mahshi, always remember that you have to make a protective layer at the bottom of the pot to keep the actual vegetables up off the direct heat. Some people slice up a potato and layer the slices at the bottom of the pot, others use soup or chop bones – this is definitely the best option because it gives the dish a lot of extra flavor, and the meat fans at your table can munch on the little bits of meat amid bites of eggplant and rice. If you don’t have bones on hand, and don’t want to cut up a potato, you can wash the green tops that you cut off the eggplants, and layer those down instead. (Just remember to fish them out of the pot later and not accidentally serve them!)

Arrange the eggplants in the pot.

Combine the pureed tomatoes, the cup of water or stock, and salt&pepper to taste, then pour the mixture over the eggplants in the pot. Place something heavy, such as a plate or bowl, on the eggplants to keep them pressed down, so they don’t float around in the liquid.

Cook on high heat until the tomato mixture starts to boil. Let boil for two minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pot, and let it cook for about an hour to an hour and a half.

To serve: Arrange the eggplants on a serving platter; serve the tomato sauce in individual bowls too, for dipping the eggplants in. Also serve fresh yogurt on the side.

The Stuffing Begins… (Stuffed Turnips)

Yes, the stuffing begins … and I don’t mean turkeys.

(I don’t do Thanksgiving.)

Since I just posted my recipe for the Best Mahshi Stuffing Ever, I thought it would be appropriate to follow it with an example where you could actually apply the stuffing recipe.

Stuffed turnips are the perfect choice right now, as the fall root vegetables are at their prime. Although the recipe is a bit labor-intensive, the end result is really worth the effort. (Also, Palestinian cooking is usually labor intensive in general, so you just have to deal with it!)

I find the use of both sumac and pomegranate molasses for acidity in this recipe really unique – I actually think this dish is on the more “creative” end of the spectrum when it comes to traditional Palestinian food, just because of how the vegetable is treated, as well as the strange flavor combinations that bring out the best of the spicy turnip. Most importantly, the turnips end up turning pink from the sumac, and nothing can possibly be better than pink turnips.

My “Lift Mahshi,” or stuffed turnips, are a must-make!

Ingredients (to serve 5)

1 batch of Best Mahshi Stuffing Ever

9 lbs medium sized turnips

3 cups vegetable oil, for frying

6-7 cups pureed tomatoes (puree fresh tomatoes in a blender/food processor for best taste)

1 cup water

2 cups of good quality sumac (should be quite sour)

1/3 cup pomegranate molasses

salt to taste

Method

I like to divide the tasks of preparation up in my head so that it’s easier to tackle. I’ve divided them up here as: Coring, Frying, Stuffing, and Cooking.


i. Coring

With a knife, cut off the rough tops and bottoms of each turnip, then peel them. Rinse them off.

With a “corer” (ma2warah), core out the insides of the turnips, scraping the tool around inside to hollow them out.

Sharp teeth on the corer

You don’t want the hollowed-out turnips to be too thin though, or they will fall apart upon cooking, so be careful. If you accidentally poke a hole through them, don’t worry; I will address how to fix t hat below.

Some of the holes are really big on this batch of turnips, but don't worry; you'll plug them later after stuffing them..

Important: Do not throw away the insides of the turnips! Keep them in a bowl to the side, because you will be using them later.

ii. Frying

Heat the oil for frying in a pan. When hot,  fry the turnips on all sides till they’re golden brown. The vegetable will start to form bubbles on its exterior as it fries; it’s kind of neat to watch.

When the turnips are fried, take them out and put them on paper towels or newspaper to absorb some of the oil. Let them cool.

iii. Stuffing

Once the fried turnips have cooled down, they’re ready to stuff. Fill each turnip with the stuffing, and use the tip of your pinkie finger to measure when they’re good to go: there should be about the tip of your pinkie’s worth of space between the stuffing and the “mouth” of the turnip. Don’t worry about being accurate; the basic idea is that you need to allow space for the rice to expand inside the turnip when it cooks.

Finally, close the mouths of the turnips with some of the turnip insides you have sitting off the side. This should prevent the stuffing from spilling out of the turnips.

Holes: If you accidentally poked holes through your turnip while coring, patch them up by putting some of the turnip insides back into the turnip and covering the holes with them. Then, you carefully put the rice stuffing in over the patches, and continue on as above.

iv. Cooking

In a large bowl, combine the tomato puree, the cup of water, the sumac, the pomegranate molasses, and salt to taste. Stir to blend well.

Put a few tablespoons of oil in a large pot, then add a few handfuls of the turnip insides you have waiting off to the side. You want the layer of “insides” on the bottom of the pan to be about an inch thick.

Next, carefully place the stuffed turnips in the pot, with the mouths facing upward. When you layer them on top of each other, try to be gentle so they don’t fall over.

Pour the tomato puree mixture over the turnips. The puree should just barely cover the turnips; if you don’t have enough to cover the turnips, just add some water to bring the liquid up to the tops of the vegetables.

Put the pot uncovered on the stove on high heat, until the tomato puree mixture comes to a boil. Let it boil for 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low, and cover the pot. Let the turnips cook for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the turnip is tender and the rice inside is cooked and soft (after about an hour of cooking, you can take one out and cut it open to see how far cooked the rice is, and based on that, decide how much more cooking time the pot needs).

To serve:

Fish the turnips out of the pot, and serve them on a platter or in a large bowl. Ladle out the tomato sauce into small, individual bowls to serve with the turnips, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to get that layer of turnip insides. This sauce is the best part; you drizzle it over your turnip after you cut it open – or, if eating with your hands (the best way!), dip the turnip into the bowl of sauce as you eat! Also serve the stuffed turnips with little bowls of fresh yogurt and some slices of lemon/lime.

Extra: If you still have turnip insides left over, fry them like a hash brown in a frying pan with some oil until golden. Add salt and pepper; this stuff tastes amazing.

Tired of Boring Mahshi? Perfect Stuffing Recipe Right Here!

Don’t get me wrong; I love mahshi, or “stuffed” things (usually vegetables), of all shapes and sizes. Our family is from the city of Khalil, and trust me, Khalilis will stuff anything they can get their hands on. Khalilis have stuffed eggplants, turnips, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, grape leaves, cabbage leaves, “tongue leaves” (I don’t know what they’re called in English), cucumbers, carrots, and even eggs. Yeah. So I’m programmed to love mahshi. And I do.

But sometimes, the stuffing just gets really boring.

Today I’d like to share a recipe for stuffing that is way better than any stuffing you’ve ever tasted. You can use it for stuffing pretty much anything. Once I post the recipe for the stuffing itself, I can then follow it with different kinds of mahshi variations, because each vegetable has its own particular method of preparation.

So here it is! And yes, I’m using American weight measurements today!

To 3 cups of washed, short-grain American or Egyptian rice, add:

1/2 cup of washed basmati rice

1/2 lb ground lamb or beef

1 large onion, grated

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tbsp salt – or more, if you prefer

2 tbsp curry powder

2 tbsp allspice (or “mixed bharat” if available)

1.5 tbsp turmeric

1.5 tbsp ginger

1.5 tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp cardamom

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Method

Mix it all together! Done! This is your way better than anything you’ve ever tasted stuffing. Trust me.

By the way, you can always add more or less of any of the spices above, based on your personal preference.

This batch of stuffing actually has more meat in it than usual, because we wanted a meatier experience that day :p

Egyptian Stuffed Potatoes

I apologize for taking so long to update this! I got a couple of unexpected (but very welcome and dear) guests, and was quite busy having a great time with them :) Sam7ooni!

My Taita loves this dish. She tells me she used to make it a lot when she lived in Egypt. I also remember watching her make it back when she and Seedo lived with us in the UAE. She would let me help her wash the little potatoes and peel them, while she cooked the stuffing. I finally got her recipe with photos too, so I decided that it would be a good addition to the blog.

The dish is a bit heavy, being just meat and potatoes, but it’s nice and filling. Also, if you don’t make it with care, it could turn out tasting disastrous, but this recipe is perfect, so I do encourage you to try it!

Ingredients

1 kilo of small to medium sized potatoes; any kind, washed and peeled

500 grams of ground meat

1 large onion, finely chopped

aprox 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon and allspice

aprox 1/2 tablespoon each of ground ginger, ground cardamom

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

3 or 4 large tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons of tomato paste

oil for frying


Method

Begin by coring the washed, peeled potatoes. We use a tool called a “ma’warah” or “7affarah,” that is basically a long corer with a handle. Stick the tip of the corer into the top of the potato, twist in gently, and slowly push the corer in further as you continue to twist. Every once in a while, pull the corer out and tap off the “insides” (“libb”) that get attached to it into a separate bowl. You want the potato to be cored so that it’s like a container for the stuffing; not too thick and not too thin. (I wish I had step by step photos for this process; insha’Allah if we make another dish of stuffed vegetables, I will take some good pictures!) When finished coring the potatoes, dunk them in salted water and pull them out to drain off.

Cored potatoes, rinsed off and draining...

Keep the insides of the potatoes in a separate bowl for later use! This is what they should look like:

"Insides" of the potatoes, set aside...

In a pan, add your oil. When it gets hot, sautee the chopped onions until they get soft and begin to turn golden. Add the ground meat, and sautee until just cooked. Break up any large chunks of meat in the pan. Add the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cardamom, and salt&pepper to taste. This is the stuffing.

Take each potato and fill it completely with the stuffing. Close the hole by inserting some of the “insides” you had set aside into it and pressing down. When the potatoes are all stuffed, fry them in hot oil on both sides until golden brown. The stuffing shouldn’t fall out because you closed the holes with the “libb”! Also, fry some of the libb in the oil then layer it in a baking dish. Place the potatoes on top of the fried libb in your baking dish. Unfortunately I was a bad granddaughter and missed this step, so that’s why it’s missing in my photos, but Taita says you definitely need to do that.

Fried and placed in the baking dish...(missing libb :( )

Blend your chopped tomatoes till very smooth. If you want, you can pour the tomato juice through a strainer into a bowl to make sure to remove any bits of tough tomato skin (I usually don’t bother with this step, but Taita will tisk at you disapprovingly if she sees you not doing it).

Blending...

Mix the tomato paste into the (strained) tomato juice, and add salt&pepper to taste. Pour this over the stuffed potatoes in the baking dish:

Potatoes with tomato juice poured over...

Put the baking dish in a preheated oven (about 400 degrees F) until the potatoes bake through completely. Test them with a fork; if they are tender, they should be ready! Plate them with some of the sauce and some of the libb from the bottom of the pan (not in the picture :( ).

Plated! (minus the libb)

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