When I was in Cambridge last week, a friend gave me this copy of Delia's 'Frugal Food'. It's interesting enough, especially if you're short on 70s style things to do with lentils and cabbage. Since we'd bought an enormous Savoy for just a dollar, and I had the glorious freedom of an entire day with nothing to do but go for a long walk and cook, it seemed like a good time to figure out something fun and frugal to do. I settled on the 'baked stuffed cabbage parcels'. They really were rather good! Although I did bulk out and spice up the recipe a bit. The photo is taken before I pour over the requisite 400g tin of chopped tomatoes; personally I think it'd be nicer with the topping I describe below.
- a large head of Savoy or green cabbage
- 75g white rice
- a large white onion
- 400g beef or lamb mince
- three cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- a large handful of parsley, well-washed and finely chopped
- a generous handful of sultanas
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- a 400g tin of white (haricot or borlotti) beans (chick peas might work too)
- a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried red chillis
- a slice or two of bread, or a handful of sunflower seeds
Get a really huge saucepan that you can put the whole cabbage head inside completely. Practice taking it out again with a couple of big spoons or some good strong tongs. When you're happy that you have a good saucepan and a way of getting a hot cabbage head back out again, fill it up with boiling water and submerge the cabbage, preferably stalk-side-up. (I don't know how Delia stops it flipping; mine always went straight over no matter what I did!) Bring back to a boil and simmer for 8 minutes, then remove and drain. (I used the water from this to cook the pasta for another meal, but maybe you could put your feet in it if you're having a particularly cold winter and don't want to let it go to waste? I've no idea.)
Once the cabbage is cool enough to handle, get a nice sharp knife and a big bowl, and work your way around the cabbage, cutting off the leaves as you go. Once the leaves go yellow, you can maybe get three or four, before they become too small to be useful for this recipe. At that stage the texture should be quite crisply blanched, so it would work well cooled and used later in a salad, or served warm straight away with some butter. But it's not useful for the rest of this recipe so find somewhere to put it.
Set the rice cooking in a 2:1 water:rice ratio over a gentle heat. Finely chop and fry the onion for a few minutes, then add the mince and crush in the garlic. Fry for a couple more minutes, then add the cinnamon, thyme, parsley, sultanas, beans, tomato puree, salt and cooked rice. Stir well to combine and turn off the heat.
Put a cabbage leaf on a board or plate so that it curves upward, and slice about three inches of the thick stem away; eat or discard. If you want to make finger-food-sized parcels, slice the entire stem away, and use half-leaves to wrap 3/4--1 1/2 tbsp of mixture; otherwise wrap up 1 1/2--3 tbsp mixture depending on the size of the leaf. You should overlap the leaves enough that the mixture isn't bursting out. Place in a large roasting dish with the foldy bits at the bottom.
Meanwhile, (perhaps your sous-chef can help), heat the tin of chopped tomatoes with the oregano and chilli. Puree with a hand-blender into a fine sauce. (A good passatta will do equally well here.) Pour the tomato sauce over the tray of parcels, making sure to coat all of the leaves (they will go black wherever not covered by tomatoes). Bake for an hour, until the leaves are very tender and the sauce has reduced to a fine covering. Blend the bread into fine breadcrumbs, toss with a little olive oil; cover the tomato sauce and bake for a further ten minutes until crisp. Alternatively, serve with some toasted sunflower seeds.