#1 Croatian comfort dish! We cannot imagine starting the New Year without sarma. It originated in Turkey, and Croatians adopted it during Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.
I believe this is the most popular dish in Croatia. It is so popular that one of the biggest Croatian rock bands Hladno Pivo (engl: Cold Beer!) dedicated a whole song to it, a song called Sarma 😀
- 1 large sour cabbage head
- 20 g of smoked bacon or speck, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 500 g ground beef
- 500 g ground pork
- 170 g (2/3 cup) white rice
- 5-6 bay leaves
- smoked ribs or meat (optional and recommended)
- Remove bruised leaves from cabbage and cut out center core. Separate cabbage leaves and rinse them briefly to reduce sourness.
- Saute bacon and onion until golden. Add half the tomato paste. Set aside.
- In a large bowl beat the eggs with salt, pepper and paprika. Add ground beef and pork along with bacon mixture and rice. Mix thoroughly until combined.
- Place heaped tablespoon of stuffing at core end of each cabbage leaf and roll carefully, tucking in ends.
- Place rolls in layers in Dutch oven or large pot.
First layer at the bottom: chopped unused leaves.
Second layer: the rolls.
Final layer: smoked ribs or meat. Repeat the process until you run out of the ingredients (usually twice).
- On top add remaining tomato paste with bay leaves and add enough water to cover the rolls.
- Cover and simmer on the stove for 2 to 2-1/2 hours on low to medium heat.
It is usually served with mashed potatoes. You know the drill 😀 Cook potatoes, mash with some butter and sour cream. Season with salt!
Tip: Try them with Croatian potatoes: Restani Krumpir! 😉
What is your ultimate comfort dish?
Sister Stefania Papailiopulos (try reading that fast three times in a row) from Varaždin, Croatia, held this dish worthy to include it in her published book “Our food and our health” way back in 1939.
Stews are excellent for your digestion and are a necessity in your diet.
This stew is tangy, crispy and healthy. Croatians usually use sour cabbage (sauerkraut) for various stews in winter. During the summer, when fresh cabbage is available and sauerkraut is not yet prepared, this stew with a touch of vinegar has that sourly taste of sauerkraut. The original name in literal meaning says “forced” cabbage with beans, because fresh cabbage is forced to taste like it’s sour 😉
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Tools you need
- Mandolin slicer is a useful tool to have in your kitchen and if you have one you can save time and use it to slice cabbage.
- Chef’s knife to cut the cabbage and onion
- Large cooking pot, about three liters or more to fit all the ingredients
- Cutting board to, yes, cut things on it 🙂
- Ladle to scoop the cabbage stew out of the pot and onto the plate once it’s ready
- Measuring spoons if you’re a perfectionist and don’t want to guesstimate the spices 😉
- half a head of fresh cabbage
- 250 g of tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 onion
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar, but all are good)
- salt, pepper, sugar to taste
- 500 ml of cooked beans (you can use canned)
- Vegeta seasoning to taste (usually from half a teaspoon to a tablespoon or more)
You’ll find Vegeta seasoning often in Croatian recipes, especially stews and soups. It gives them a distinctive aroma that’s hard to replicate without it. It contains a mix of finely cut dried vegetables and spices. It’s also salty so you may want to put it in and give it a taste before adding salt.
- Cut cabbage into stripes, thinner or wider as you prefer.
- In a large cooking pot heat up the oil and add finely chopped onion.
- When the onion gets transparent add cabbage stripes and season with salt and pepper.
- Splash vinegar and simmer until the cabbage is cooked. I like it crunchy, but if you prefer it to be softer, cook longer until it’s tender enough.
- Dust with flour, fry until the flour gets sticky and at than add tomato paste and sugar.
- Stir and add water to cover the cabbage.
- Boil for 5 minutes, than put the cooked beans in and cook just long enough to warm them up.
- Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with sausages, ribs, or just eat it with bread as a vegetarian treat that it is!
Our suggestion is to try this stew with ground meat fritters.
Which protein would you serve with this stew?