This past week, I decided to give rolling malfoof a try. Malfoof is the Arabic take on cabbage rolls and it’s always been one of my favorite things to eat. If they’re done right, malfoof can be automatically addictive. Doing malfoof ‘right’ means that each roll is rolled at just the right size ; preferably more on the thin side – think fat cigar. It also means there is a good ratio of garlic flavor to buttery sweet richness with the leaves. The meat/rice mixture should be just the right ratio of meat to rice, with rice taking the lead. The cinnamon shouldn’t be too overpowering, but the overall taste should have a nice peppery bite that compliments the subtle undertone of allspice and cinnamon, and all these flavors should marry perfectly once you’ve added a little acidity with the addition of lemon juice to the final steamed product.
That’s how I remember malfoof.
My first attempt at making malfoof went about as expected. I did a lot less of the work while I learned from my dad and I have a long way to go on the rolling front. All of my leaves rolled way too big and weren’t rolled tightly enough. I’m not sure exactly what I need to do to correct this fact other than more practice. We also made way too much stuffing. I think the ratio was somewhere in the ballpark of 4ish cups of rice to a pound and a quarter of beef. We rolled two heads of cabbage worth of leaves and there was still about half the stuffing left. We ended up freezing it to use at a later date.
As an added bonus this past week, a few friends joined my dad, brother and me for dinner. Our lovely friend Yasser was one of those people and he brought and cooked an amazing cut of fish for us all to share. Yasser has been one person that has consistently inspired me to be a better person – a more creative person. He’s also an incredible cook and I hope to be able to learn a little more from him before heading back to Ethiopia.
1. I have no idea how to taste a dish that is raw to determine whether or not the spicing is right. This might be an obvious solution for some (like my dad who just tried a bit of the stuffing raw. yea. not happening.)
2. I learned that adding a bit of butter to the pot while it’s cooking helps add a little fat and a ton of flavor to the malfoof.
3. Rolling leaves of any kind is hard – for me at least.
4. Food tastes better when you share it with the people you love.