By roderickfreeman, Feb 1 2017 09:00AM
From the Balkans to the countries of the southern Mediterranean, from Central Asia to Mongolia, there are culinary traditions of cooking plant leaves stuffed with savoury fillings – dolmas, holiskes, golabki, sarma, the list goes on. In France, stuffed cabbage (chou farci) has long been a staple for some rural communities, and this re-working of a Mark Hix recipe elevates the dish from its humble origins.
4 large outer leaves of Savoy cabbage (prep a couple extra in case any tear during stuffing)
400g minced pork (use chicken or rose veal if you’d prefer)
100g chopped chicken liver or pork liver (use streaky bacon if you don’t like liver)
1 medium onion finely chopped (200g approx)
100g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or winter savoury
2 cloves crushed garlic
100g Puy lentils (use regular green lentils if you can’t get Puy)
1 large stick of celery finely chopped
1 medium carrot finely chopped
500ml chicken or veal stock
1 glass red wine
1 dried bay leaf
Knob of butter
Salt & pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanche the cabbage leaves for 2 minutes, transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking, drain & pat dry with a tea towel – tip: to make the leaves more pliable, before blanching lay them face down and using a vegetable peeler, pare down the back of the main leaf stem.
For the stuffing, combine the pork, liver, breadcrumbs, half of the onions, garlic, thyme, salt & pepper. Lay each cabbage leaf on a large piece of cling film, share out the stuffing mix (mounding it in the centre of the leaf), fold up the cabbage leaf around it & then gather the edges of cling film up and twist to form a tight parcel. Refrigerate the parcels for at least 30 mins. Meanwhile, cover the lentils with cold unsalted water, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 20-30 mins until tender. Drain and set aside.
In another pan, melt the butter over a low heat, add the remaining onions, carrot, celery, & bay leaf. Allow the vegetables to soften for a couple of minutes, add the stock and red wine then bring to a simmer. Carefully remove the cling from the stuffed leaves and place in an oven-proof dish with the folded edges underneath. Pour over the hot stock mix and cover with a lid or foil, place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 35-40mins.
Carefully transfer the parcels to a warm plate/tray - taste the cooking liquid, if it needs more intensity of flavour then place in a pan over a high heat and reduce until the flavour builds, season to taste (remember the lentils were cooked with out salt, so will need a little help) - if you like you can thicken the sauce a little using a knob of beurre manié or slacked cornflour. Reduce the heat, add the lentils and warm them through for 2-3 mins. To serve, use a slotted spoon to make a bed of lentils and sauce on each plate then top off with a plump cabbage parcel.