This dish takes a bit of time to make as you need to pre-boil the cabbage and cook the filled dolmathes for at least 2 hours. Prepare the cabbage the day before and give yourself some time to assemble. You can easily make this dish as a vegetarian version.
1 large cabbage
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1 zucchini, shredded
1 celery, chopped
3 tbsp dill
3 tbsp parsley
4 cups chicken stock*
1 kg ground beef or lamb*
8 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water 1 1/4 cup short grain rice
6 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
Additional salt and pepper on top
Cut out the cabbage heart using a knife (this will make it easier to remove the leaves). Place the cabbage in a pot and add water to the half point height of the cabbage. Cover and cook on high heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Lift the lid and remove the first two loose large cabbage leaves. Cover again and lift the lid every 5 to 10 minutes to remove the leaves until you are left with a smaller center piece of cabbage. Note: Use a pot that you can completely cover and steam the cabbage. If preparing a day ahead, ensure you cover the cabbage leaves so they do not dry out.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sweat the vegetables in 4 tablespoons oil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to the meat along with the salt and pepper and remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Mix using your hands or a pastry blender. Add the rice and the water and mix well. The mixture should feel a little runny.
Line the bottom of an oven-ready pot with some of the smaller cabbage leaves so the dolmathes (rolls) do not stick. Rest one cabbage leaf in your open palm and place 2 tablespoons of the filling into the center of leaf. Roll over the leaf end to cover the meat. Tuck in the sides and continue rolling to create an envelope. Place the rolled end facing down into the pot. Continue until the pot is full.
Cover the dolmathes with more loose cabbage leaves and sprinkle additional salt and pepper and remaining oil. Place an oven-safe plate over them to avoid them bubbling up and becoming loose. Pour the stock down the sides and cover with the lid. Cook in a preheated oven for 2 hours.
Once cooked, remove the pot from the oven and take out 1/2 cup of the liquid and set it aside. Beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the lemon juice, and while continuously beating, add the egg yolks. Slowly drip in the reserved juices into the egg to temper it. Once tempered, add it to the pot with the dolmathes, twisting the pot left to right to distribute the egg throughout.
For a vegetarian version, remove the meat and use vegetable stock. Chop 1 cup of the cabbage finely into the vegetable mixture. Add 1/4 cup of additional rice.