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Croatian Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

I have such wonderful memories of Baka (Croatian name for Grandma) and feel so blessed to have known her for over 40 years. Her love language was definitely food.

Whenever you entered her home the smell of her baked goods would warm your heart and soul. Within minutes she would greet us with a table filled of authentic Croatian foods and when you left, it would

always be with a plate filled with goodies. My personal favourite were the jelly filled doughnuts (guilt free indulgence bc I knew they were made with love). I am working on getting her recipe.

In the meantime, in honour of Baka, I thought it would be fun to include a Croatian recipe in this month’s newsletter. I tested it for the first time last week and my family enjoyed it. Hope

you do too.

-Anne Deni, B.Sc. FdNu, Clinical Nutritionist


  • Entire pickled cabbage head

  • 1 kg of mincemeat (2.2 lbs) (I used ground organic lean ground beef)

  • 200 g of finely diced smoked bacon (8 oz)

  • 4 peeled & crushed garlic cloves

  • 1/2 bunch roughly chopped parsley leaves

  • 3 Tbls. of soda water

  • 1 cup of uncooked california organic white rice

  • 1 Tbls. hot ground paprika (optional)

  • 1 Tbls. sweet paprika (optional)

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 egg

  • 1 Tbls. organic extra virgin olive oil

Sarma Sauce

  • 2 onions, chopped fine

  • 3 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil

  • 100 pancetta (4 oz)

  • 1/2 bunch chopped parsley

  • 2 carrots diced small

  • 400 g tomato passata or pureed tomato (2 cups)

  • 1/2 kg shredded sauerkraut (3 cups). Rinse in fresh water before using

  • Salt and pepper


Sarma Preparation

  1. Take an entire pickled cabbage head and wash each leaf thoroughly. Gently remove the thick part of the stem without tearing the leaves. It's best to allow the leaves to drain on some paper towel or pat each one dry

  2. Take a large mixing bowl, and combine mincemeat, bacon, garlic, parsley leaves, soda water, rice, , hot paprika (optional), sweet paprika (optional), Salt and pepper, egg & olive oil

  3. Mix all of the ingredients until well combined

Let's Roll The Sarma

  1. You want each of the leaves to be about the same size so that each cabbage roll cooks at the same time. It is okay to cut large leaves or add small leaves so that they are all of the same size

  2. Take approx 3 tablespoons of the beef mixture and gently combine in the palm of your hand. Do not roll or compress as this will make them too dense when you eat them

  3. Place the beef mixture on the edge of the cabbage leaf and roll away from you. Then tuck in the sides of the leaf gently into the beef mixture. There should be no exposed beef mixture. If there is, remove some of the filling

  4. Set the sarma aside, and prepare the sauce

Sarma Sauce

  1. In a shallow saucepan, or even better, a Le Creuset cast-Iron dish, add some extra virgin olive oil, add the 2 diced onions and cook until transparent on low heat. Then add the 2 diced carrots, pancetta, and parsley. Continue to fry on low heat until carrots start to soften

  2. Add the shredded sauerkraut and create a layer on the bottom of the saucepan. Now, pack the sarma into the saucepan. They should be packed close together.

  3. Pour in boiling water so that it just covers the sarma. Add the pureed tomato and a pinch of salt and pepper. Every 20 minutes, give the saucepan a shake (do not stir them or they will break) and let them simmer for 2 hours on a low-medium heat.

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