This popular French dish can be baked in a round baking dish, or remoulded into its original shape as is the case with this recipe from Poitou in west-central France. Traditionally, the cabbage is wrapped in caul fat, but we’ve used muslin; you’ll need a 60 cm x 60 cm piece for this recipe.
- 3 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
- 125 ml (½ cup) milk or water
- 1 (about 2kg) whole savoy cabbage
- 150 g pancetta (see Note), chopped
- 50 g pork belly fat or lardo (see Note)
- 500 g minced pork
- 2 onions, 1 finely chopped, 1 roughly chopped
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- ½ cup basil leaves, finely chopped
- 1 bunch chives, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 silverbeet leaves, finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 500 ml (2 cups) good-quality veal or beef stock
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Process bread to coarse breadcrumbs and soak in milk for 5 minutes.
Discard tough outer leaves of cabbage. Using a knife, make a cross in the base, cutting about halfway through to form 4 wedges. Prise wedges apart slightly and cut out and discard core from each wedge.
Immerse cabbage, cut-side up, in a large, heavy-based saucepan of boiling salted water. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 45 minutes or until cabbage starts to soften. Cool under cold water and drain well. Wipe pan clean and reserve. Place cabbage, cut-side down, on a work surface. Remove and reserve outer leaves (about 10) until you reach the centre leaves which are too tightly packed to remove. Using scissors, cut a V-shape into each reserved outer leaf to remove tough centre rib. Set trimmed outer leaves aside for wrapping the stuffed cabbage.
Finely chop remaining tightly packed cabbage and combine with pancetta, pork belly fat, minced pork, finely chopped onion, herbs, garlic, silverbeet and eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
Line a bowl roughly the size of the original cabbage with muslin*, allowing edges to hang over rim of bowl. Place trimmed outer leaves, reserving 3, slightly overlapping, around base and side of bowl, allowing top edges to hang over rim of bowl. Place pork mixture in centre, top with reserved 3 leaves and fold in overhanging leaves to enclose mixture. Fold in muslin, gather at top and twist, pressing cabbage to reform its original shape. Secure with kitchen string or an elastic band, then wrap string several times around cabbage and tie to secure.
Place remaining onion and carrot in reserved pan. Lower in cabbage and cover with stock and 500ml water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 2½ hours or until very tender. Carefully transfer cabbage to a plate and rest for 10 minutes. Reserve cooking liquid. Remove muslin and serve cabbage, with liquid drizzled over.
Pancetta is available from selected supermarkets and delis.
Ask your butcher for the fatter end of the pork belly. Lardo is sold vacuum-packed at selected delis and specialty food shops.
Muslin is available from catering shops and fabric stores.
As seen in Feast magazine, Issue 9, pg64.
Photography by John Laurie.