Sinj arambašići are one more local speciality which was created under the influence of the Turks, however, it is only their name which comes from the Turkish word “harambaša”, a term for Turkish bandits. Although they look a lot like sarma, arambašići are in fact smaller scrolls of leaves of pickled or fresh cabbage filled with a mixture of young beef and pork.
The famous Sinj phrase says that “kupus radi arambaše” (“cabbage for the harambaša”), which highlights the importance of good pickled cabbage in the preparation of this traditional dish of the Cetinska Krajina, a part of the Dalmatian hinterland in which the town of Sinj itself is situated.
The cabbage leaves are filled with a mix of chopped bacon, fried onions, chopped garlic and parsley and grated lemon rind and well-chopped meat which has not been ground but prepared with a cleaver. A specific aroma is given to the arambašići by spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and salt and pepper are added to the meat. A whisked egg is then added to the mix so that everything holds together. The mix is then left to sit for a while, and then it is used to fill the centre of large pickled cabbage leaves from which the hard root part has been removed. The filled leaves should be wrapped up well so that during cooking they remain whole.
The pot in which the arambašići will be cooked is lined with pieces of dried meat or bacon and cut pickled cabbage leaves. The wraps of pickled cabbage are then tightly placed in the pot, with the addition of a few beef bones or pieces of bacon for flavour. The pot which is now almost full to the top with the arambašići is filled with water or meat stock until the wraps are almost covered. They are cooked at a medium temperature for several hours, without turning or stirring, just with an occasional shake of the pot, so that the arambašići do not fall apart. They say that the arambašići are best after two days of cooking, for the beginning just an hour, and the next day three to four hours on a low heat.
This filling and tasty dish represents an invigorating meal when the rainy autumn days start, and it is even more delicious drunk with some local red wine of the indigenous Dalmatian Ninčuša sort.