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Sweet and sour stuffed cabbage leaves | Tursh-shirin kelem dolmasi

Tursh-shirin kelem dolmasi
The term dolma covers a variety of stuffed vegetable dishes, widespread in the Middle East and Mediterranean area.

Cabbage dolma, or stuffed cabbage leaves, are popular all year round in Azerbaijan, but especially in winter when other vegetables are not so widely available. We give below a recipe for a sweet and sour cabbage dolma.

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 people as a main dish, 6 to 8 as an appetizer


  • 500 g/1 lb 4 oz minced lamb or 250 g/10 oz minced lamb and 250 g/10 oz minced beef
  • 1 large (1 kg/2.2 lbs)white cabbage
  • 200 g/8 oz onion
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • 1 tspn cinnamon
  • 50 g/2 oz short-grain rice
  • 500 g/1lb 4 oz chestnuts (1 chestnut for each dolma)
  • 200 g/8 oz dried plums (sari turshu, 1 plum for each dolma)
  • 80 g/3.2 oz lamb fat (traditional) or butter (for a lighter filling)
  • 1 quince
  • For the sweet and sour dressing:
  • 2 tbspns of sugar or 2 tbspns of honey
  • 2 tbspns of vinegar (any kind)


  • Pierce the chestnuts. Cover with water in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the water and shell. Don’t take all the chestnuts out of the water at once, as they are difficult to shell when dry.
  • Soak the dried plums for 3-5 minutes in boiling water and then remove the stones.
  • Peel and chop the onion. Mix together the minced meat, onion, spices, rice, fat and salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  • Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add salt. Trim off the outer leaves of the cabbage. Place the whole cabbage in the boiling water and leave to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. (The blanched cabbage leaves will be softer and easier to use.) Remove the cabbage from the water, peel off the outer leaves and put in a colander to drain. When you get down to the unblanched part of the cabbage, return it to the boiling water for a few more minutes. Remove from the water and repeat the process of peeling off the cabbage leaves.
  • If the cabbage is very large, it is better to peel off the leaves and then blanche them.
  • Lay the blanched leaves on a chopping board or other flat surface, smooth side down, and cut out the tough central stalk. If the leaves are very large, cut them in half.
  • Place a generous tablespoonful of filling, one shelled chestnut and one stoned dried plum in the middle of each leaf and fold the leaf into a square, making sure the sides are corners are wrapped tightly.
  • Place the discarded and unused leaves at the bottom of a large saucepan. Pack the stuffed cabbage leaves on top.
  • Place an inverted dessert plate or saucer on top of the dolma and weigh down with a heavy object, such as a stone. This helps to stop the dolma unwrapping during cooking. Add water to the pan almost up to the level of the plate. Don’t cover the dolma with water as they will release their own juice during cooking.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • While the dolma are cooking, make the dressing by dissolving 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey in one-third of a glass of hot water and adding vinegar. Mix well.
  • After the dolma have been cooking for 15 minutes, remove the stone and plate. Pour the dressing over the dolma and add a few slices of quince to the pan. Return the plate and weight, bring back to the boil and simmer for another 15 minutes or until the filling is cooked.
  • Serve cabbage dolma with some of the cooking liquid spooned on top, a few chopped fresh herbs (optional) and fresh bread to mop up the juices.

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