Lamb and rice stuffed ‘little pigeons’ in a cinnamon-tomato broth

Lamb and rice stuffed ‘little pigeons’ in a cinnamon-tomato broth

90 mins
Laura Edwards

Every Polish household has their own version of a ‘little pigeons’ dish. While some are stuffed with meat, others are vegetarian; where some use kasza in the filling, others use rice; although most recipes call for the use of white cabbage, I have seen some that use red cabbage!

As Poland has had a large Armenian community within its midst since the 14th Century, I believe this much-loved national dish probably has its true roots in the Middle East. This is my own version, that gives a nod to the Middle Eastern origins of this dish. One cabbage makes about ten 'little pigeons'. The parcels need to be tightly packed so as not to fall apart during cooking.


Quantity Ingredient
1 leafy cabbage
rapeseed oil, for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
500g minced lamb
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250g cooked short-grain white rice
1 litre vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 bay leaf
4 whole black peppercorns
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Wash the cabbage thoroughly while you bring a large pan of water to a boil. Blanch the cabbage for a couple of minutes, then remove from the pan and separate the larger leaves (the smaller leaves can’t be used to wrap the parcels up with), cutting away the hard stalk. Drain the leaves on kitchen paper while you begin to make the filling.
  3. Add a little rapeseed oil to a pan and fry the chopped onion over a medium heat for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add the lamb and continue to cook for about 4–5 minutes, until the meat has browned all over, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon as you do so. Halfway through cooking the lamb, add half the cinnamon to the meat and season with salt and white pepper. Remove from the heat, combine with the cooked rice and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the vegetable stock with the tomato purée, the bay leaf, peppercorns, remaining cinnamon and some salt and pepper.
  5. Take one of the cabbage leaves and put a couple of tablespoons of filling in the middle. Fold it over lengthways, fold in both short edges and roll over to make a neat parcel. Place vertically inside an overproof dish, then continue with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling – you should have enough to make 10 parcels.
  6. When the entire dish is packed full, pour over the stock mixture. Any smaller cabbage leaves that could not be rolled can go on top, to act as a lid. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
eastern european
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