Traditional Finnish Kaalikääryleet Cabbage Rolls - unless you'd rather have prostate cancer


No, they are not massive ugly mis-coloured dolmades. They are traditional Finnish Kaalikääryleet cabbage rolls, every child’s worst nightmare. Just the evil smell of the boiling cabbage will make you want to run away and be adopted by someone from Italy. Mamma mia, they would never do this to their children.

Traditional Finnish Kaalikääryleet Cabbage Rolls

Even as an adult I haven't particularly fallen in love with cabbage. I couldn't do the cabbage soup diet which in Finland lots of women torture themselves with. I'd rather be fat. And I generally even like vegetables. I was vegetarian for almost 20 years for God's sakes! Although that time my diet consisted mainly of bread, cheese and alcohol, none of them strictly speaking vegetables. But I do love veggies, cabbage though somehow, not a favourite. Not even in the top 50, so the only reason I made these is because they look gross and would make an interesting blog post. No, not really.

I actually thought husband might like these - and he did, he had seconds. But most importantly there is some interesting and promising research to cruciferous vegetables and their health benefits, amongst them their anti breast and prostate cancer properties. So cabbage is part of my new attempt to live forever supported by phytochemicals that will mold my microRNA in a way that makes me unbreakable like Bruce Willis albeit with more hair (as published in the Lancet). And husband of course. Without me he would be a complete cardiovascular timebomb. I have managed to coax ( = nag) him into a healthier diet and lifestyle, because I need him here with me for as long as possible.

Sometimes I wonder if my fussing is more detrimental than helpful. Even my dad who is a doctor told me to stop measuring husband's blood pressure all the time. It’s not like I’m chasing him around the house with the monitor. Not all the time. Often he's just sitting on the sofa unsuspecting and I lasso the cuff around his arm with no chasing whatsoever.

But then he is one of those men who just can’t help themselves. Just a couple of days ago he texted me, he was working late, “I am having McDonalds, thanks for letting me.” Winky face. So he’ll still have the odd cheeky take away and of course he should, I don’t want him to be miserable. Although I don’t get how McDonalds can add to anyone’s happiness. Unless you’re a shareholder, in which case you don't deserve to be happy. The food is horrible. I wouldn’t even call it food. I tried once to talk the kids out of chicken nuggets by telling them how they are made – it did nothing to their appetite for the nuggets. They were just like oh yeah - what's wrong with peroxide?

These rolls can be made with ground beef, or a mixture of beef and pork, but I opted for lamb, because it is more tasty and I think it goes well with cabbage and husband loves lamb. I found a leaner ground lamb to keep things healthy.

By the way the cabbage takes forever to soften. It really quite annoyed me, because the smell was getting on my nerves. Also mine was too small, so I was left with half the filling, which is fine because I was really fed up with the fecking cabbage and the rolling business when the leaves finished. I’ll just make pastry or get some fillo and do samosas with the rest of the filling. But if you want to get the about 30 rolls that’s supposed to be the yield and I honestly don’t see why you would want that, get a massive cabbage which will take about 2 years to cook.

Traditional Finnish Kaalikääryleet Cabbage Rolls in the oven
Doesn't this just make your mouth water?

Traditional Finnish Kaalikääryleet cabbage rolls recipe

2 kg cabbage (for about 30 rolls)
1 yellow onion
1-2 garlic cloves
400 g lamb mince (or beef/pork)
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 dl rice (uncooked)
1 lamb stock cube
2 eggs
Syrup (I used maple syrup)

Carve out the stalk of the cabbage. Boil the cabbage in salted water cutting the leaves free as they start to soften. Cook until soft. This will take about 30 minutes for a medium sized new cabbage and up to an hour and then some for and old big one. Drain and cool the leaves under cold water. Place on a kitchen towel and dry. Keep the small inner leaves for the ground meat mix.

Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry the onions, garlic and ground meat. Add salt, pepper and marjoram. Cook until meat is done. Make sure it's well seasoned, you can crumble a stock cube in the mix and loosen with a bit of cabbage water to add to the taste. Leave to cool.

Cook the rice in lamb stock, save some of the stock for later, drain and add to the mince meat. Add the eggs and mix well. Chop the small inner leaves of the cabbage and add to the meat mix.

With each leave use a rolling pin to flatten the stalk part a little, so it's easier to roll, Place a dollop of the filling on the leaf (stalk part) and then roll into parcels and place in an oiled baking dish.

Bake in 200C oven for 15 minutes until they start to colour a bit. Then add a bit of stock into the baking dish, brush the rolls with maple syrup and bake for another 20 minutes or until nicely coloured outside.

In Finland these might be served with lingonberries. In the absence of lingoberries you can use cranberries, but just a nice salad will do.

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  1. I love kaalikääryleet, kaalilaatikko, cabbage sallad, cabbage soup and even sauerkraut. I don't like lammaskaali, mutton and cabbage casserole. Maybe there are kids who find cabbage disgusting but I've never met them. I suggest that you open your kitchen window and have your kitchen fan on maximum when cooking cabbage dishes. Regards from a Finnish girl abroad. Milla

  2. Hi there English girl with finnish hubby - we love these except we use white pepper for a kick . Followed your recipe and its delicious thank you