French, Mains, Recipes
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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Lentils / Wine Tasting Revision

I will be cramming for the next few days using the period of the calm before the storm as I have so many stories from my holiday that I’d like to tell you, whether you’re interested or not. But I can make you interested with my food shots or make you stop doing whatever you’re doing and put little thoughts into food and life for a few seconds.

I made this dish from leftover confit de canard that I cooked on the previous night. I couldn’t eat two legs but Cyrille, the gourmand, easily finished two legs. I saved one leg for next day’s lunch but I didn’t eat it. Instead I used it for the dinner menu.


Without the confit, this can easily make a beautiful vegetarian dish as in the one stuffed with wild rice and nuts. So-called stuffed cabbage rolls exist in many countries. Polish Golumpki is one example but all eastern European countries have it one way or another. Turkish dolma is one variation and Morrocan stuffed cabbage, stuffed with rice or a mixture of rice and minced meat, is another example, and also there is the Chinese version with prawns.


In my case, I often roll cabbage leaves with lentils or bulgur with veggies or spinach and cheese. It’s a versatile dish as you can stuff it with anything you want. It was my first time making the stuffing with real confit and I found it extremely delicious, especially with the simply fennel tomato sauce.


You probably know how I like roulade dishes such as my signature Spring Rolls and Lamb Roulade. It could be due to my Asian background but I think roulades are very aesthetic. We eat with eyes first, therefore the look is very important to make people desire what is on the plate. Having said that, I think playing with food too much is a sin, such as molecular gastronomy. But I can’t deny the fact that these photos look amazing and beautiful.


The type of cabbage was different to the normal one and the cabbage rolls were somewhat reminiscent of a certain human organ because of the lentils seen through the vein-like patterns of the cabbage leaves. The main aromas of the stuffing were only the duck confit and cloves, which I added in whole and took out as I didn’t want the clove taste overpowering. My mentor normally pierces whole cloves into a  whole onion when cooking lentils so that he can take them out easily. Especially they are hard to see in French green lentils!

I like French green lentils because they keep shape well without going all mushy like other types, but for that reason, the cooked lentils were not sticking together so I advise you to add something to hold the ingredients together such as an egg or semolina if you have some. I kept the sauce very simple as the flavours of the stuffing were delicate and intense at the same time. As I was cooking in France, I poured wine in whatever I cook instead of water or stock and I think that is what made the difference in the simple fennel tomato sauce. Yes, also, the flavour of fennels is quite unique and that’s why I like fennels.

With the cassarole cooking, Cyrille suggested an interesting idea, which was to open up all the wines bought at NOZ, a store that trades overstocks and dead-stocks. It’s a kind of gamble to buy wines there and like them as some would surprise you in a good way, way worth more than you pay for and some would make you go, “Oh, well, lucky it wasn’t expensive. I can use it for cooking.”


The collection covered the right and left bank wines of Bordeaux in different vintages, and also Cahors and Burgundy. As it was the first week of my holiday, I thought I’d do a little revision for myself to refresh my wine memories so came the blind tasting. A practical reason behind opening all the bottles was to go buy more of the bottles we’d like to stock up for the cellar for everyday drinks as many wine drinkers would do – Good bottles for special occasions and average bottles for everyday drinking.


Swirl, sniff and sip… and guess which wine it was and place the glass in front of the bottle. It was quite fun. For one, I don’t get the luxury of opening 6 bottles at once to taste outside France, and for two, when the wines of different regions are tasted at the same time, their characteristics are quite distinctive. I should do more blind tasting. When I started the “Eat with Namie” project in Istanbul with some friends, imparting awareness about food and wine was the main aim, however, it got stopped because of the limited supply of wines.


I made notes during the tasting and let me open up my iPad notes. Uh hm…Saint-Emillion 2007 was the easiest to tell due to its vanilla, chocolate and awefully smoky – I didn’t like it at all, so pass. Château Chapelle d’Aliénor 2010 I drank two days ago was also present and it was surprisingly still withstanding its strength.

La Becade, Listrac-Medoc 2003 was pale ruby with orange hued rim indicating some ageing, closed on the nose, but after 1 hour, the fruity flavour came with wet stony taste and ended with bitterness. Overall, I found it quite drinkable. Noirac, Cotes de Bourg 2009 was more tannic and had more licorice taste with a certain aroma, which had some difficulty to point out, but it wasn’t very rouned and I felt something was missing.


Domaine de Chevalier d’Homs, Cahors 1996 was very interesting because the colour and the taste was far from any old wines I’d tasted before. The colour was still bright purple and the tannins wer still powerful with lots of fruit flavours still alive. I wouldn’t have guessed it was a wine from the 20th century. It wasn’t my favourite but for the price paid for the magnum, Cyrille concluded that it was worth to buy another bottle.

Les Petites Pierres, Crozes-Hermitage 2010 was a winner hands down. Its characteristics of white pepper and mineral stood out among all the bottles. It was so different, though I wished it had had a bit longer finish. But undoubtedly it was well worth the price. So we planned to go back to the store and get some more of the bottle. But guess what? When we went there two days later, they were all gone.

So can you guess what I picked to accompany my dinner, the cabbage rolls? It was Crozes-Hermitage and they paired well together. Now it’s my favourite time of the evening, the cheese!


We had a wide new selection that night and all were good, except the one with thyme. the mountain-shaped Besace was my favourite for its nutty and sweet flavour and the one with an Occitan cross was also good along with the barrel-shape Le Clabitou, which I didn’t appreciate at first but got to like more and more for its dense creaminess and tanginess.


Another night of eating and drinking…what a life! I hope you will pick up some of the cheeses that have been mentioned on my blog one day when you’re in France. Please make sure you search all the related posts under the fromage tag or check out my Flickr cheese photos


As for the recipe below, you can play around with the idea and make your own. Life is too short to eat the same thing twice! And if you’re not sure about how to roll the cabbage leaves, please check out the linked article at the end of the recipe. The photos are great and helpful there.

 Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Duck Confit and Lentils

Ingredients (make 8-10 rolls)

confit de canard, meat from one leg
2 cups small green lentils, rinsed
1 carrot, cut into small cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp duck fat or grapeseed oil
2 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
10-12 cabbage leave
stock of your choice
fresh herbs, parsley, cilantro (coriander), etc.
sea salt and pepper for seasoning
1 egg (optional)
olive oil for drizzling

For the sauce:

1 fennel, sliced
1 shallot, chopped
2 tomato, peeled and chopped
1 tsp sea salt
cracked black pepper
1 cup white wine


1.Sautee the chopped vegetables in the pan with cloves and duck fat.
2.Discard the cloves and add the lentils, bay leaves and stock or water with a pinch of salt and bring it to boil.
3.Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 mins until the lentils are cooked.
4.While cooking the lentils, steam the cabbages leaves, either in a separate pot or over the same pot. When the leaves are wilted slightly and soft, keep them aside.
5.Once the lentils are done, add the shredded duck meat and herbs and mix well. Then simmer, stirring, for further 5 mins.
6.Taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed.
7. Spread one cabbage leaf and place a spoonful of the stuffing and roll it up in the order of the front, sides and roll towards the edge away from you. Repeat it with the rest of the leaves and if there is still some stuffing left, just eat it with a spoon. It’s delicious by itself.
8. Now make the sauce. Sautee the fennel slices and shallot until fragrant and add the tomatoes and cook for 5 mins.
9. Place the cabbage rolls in the pan and pour in the wine. Simmer with the lid on for 20 mins until the fennel is well-cooked and the sauce is reduced.
10. Serve it, drizzled with olive oil or pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.


  1. Cabbage rolls with duck confit–excellent! I don’t know why, but we only received notification of your link to our post today (April 11, 2014). Anyway, looks like a great blog. One question: you have a link to “these photos” (I’m a photo addict) and the link takes you to an almost photo-free column about molecular gastronomy–is that what you intended, or is the link misbehaving? Thanks. Ken


  2. Thank you for liking my recipe. It’s been a big pain moving a site. I’ve mentioned before how much I loved your blog with detailed step-by-step photos. As I’m doing an one-man show here. I can’t find enough time to manage my blog – oh, excuse me for the excuse. 🙂 But, I hope this new change will motivate me to work harder and more focused. To answer your question, well, I clicked on the link and I got oops. I really appreciate you for pointing that out. Thank you.


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