Spicy Cabbage Leaves with Chestnuts

Kestaneli labana dolması


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Classic Turkish Cooking

By Ghillie Basan

Published 1995

  • About

This is a speciality of Bursa, the first seat of the Ottoman dynasty. The chestnuts grow in the foothill forests of Uludag, the historic Mount Olympus. It can he made with the leaves of green or red cabbages, and goes well with an egg and lemon sauce or a tahin dressing.


  • 20-25 cabbage leaves
  • 8 oz/225 g chestnuts, cooked and shelled
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 oz/90 g short-grain rice, washed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • small bunch of dill and parsley, finely chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Steam the cabbage leaves until soft, then refresh them under running cold water and drain well. Remove the base of the hard central vein of each leaf and put the leaves aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan. Brown the onion with the garlic and sugar. Stir in the rice, spices and a little salt, cover with just enough water and bring the liquid to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Put the chestnuts and herbs in a large bowl and add the rice mixture. Mix well with a fork. Place a cabbage leaf on a flat surface and spoon some of the chestnut and rice mixture into the middle. Fold the sides over and roll it up into a tight parcel. Do the same with the others and pack them snugly in a shallow pan or casserole dish. Mix the remaining tablespoon of oil with the lemon juice and pour it over them. Place a plate directly on top, then cover the dish and cook gently for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot or cold with wedges of lemon.