Stuffed vegan cabbage leaves, step-by-step how to
A popular Hungarian dish, typically made with minced meat or fried bacon. I never liked the meat-loaded version, I prefer the full-of-rice type, with little or no meat.
It wasn't the first time I made the vegan version. This time I added courgettes to the rice, and it turned out to be a very good idea. The courgette with its neutral taste integrated well into the cabbage-tomato-rice trio.
You will need:
1 medium cabbage head
1 cup short grain rice
2 small-to-medium courgettes
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds
1/2 tsp ground sweet paprika
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt
about 6 medium tomatoes
1. Wash the rice in plenty of water several times, until the water stays clear. Let it soak for 5 mins. Drain trough a sieve and pat the bottom of the sieve dry.
2. Finely chop the onion and gently cook with the olive oil on low heat. Let it brown lightly.
3. Add the rice and cook for 4 to 5 mins, stirring.
4. Season: paprika, pepper, salt, caraway. Mix well.
5. Add the minced garlic and the grated courgettes. Mix thoroughly.
The filling is ready.
To prepare the cabbage leaves:
1. Put the whole cabbage head into gently simmering water. Leave there for 2-3 mins, then gently peel off 2 or 3 leaves. But the head back, take out again and peel off few more leaves. Do this until the leaves are too small for stuffing.
Tips: The leaves shouldn't be cooked, they just need to be softened so they will not brake when rolled. You can add a bit of salt to the water for extra flavour. Alternatively, you can peel off the leaves and then immerse them in gently boiling water. Peeling off the raw leaves are more trickier, they often tear apart. Boiling and then peeling is safer.
2. Cut off the top ridge of the hard middle white core (vein) of the leaves.
The leaves are ready.
To make the stuffed cabbage leaves and assemble the casserole:
1. First, roughly chop the heart of the cabbage and the smaller leaves (you will need only 18 to 20 larger leaves). Put the chopped leaves into a casserole. This is going to be the bed, it will protect the stuffed leaves from sticking or burning.
2. Take a leaf, put 1 tbsp stuffing at the middle(ish), roll up the bottom, fold in one side then the other, and roll up towards the top of the leaf. One is done. Put in on the bed of chopped cabbage at the bottom of your casserole.
3. Stuff the remaining leaves and arrange them closely but not too tightly (they will need room for the rice to expand while cooking).
Tips: If you pack, stack them too tightly, the rice will be uncooked in the middle. If you stack too loosely, the cooking rice will find its way out.
4. When you are done with the last one, prepare the tomato: drop them in boiling water for 2 to 3 mins. Peel off the skin and mash them with a fork. Discard the cores.
5. Mix the tomato puree with a bit of water and add it to the leaves. Add more water if needed, the leaves should be covered.
6. Put the lid on, bring to boil then reduce to minimum and gently cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Serve with bread and mashed bean puree. Enjoy!