These rolls are perfect autumn fare, a dish that heads towards hearty territory yet still retains a certain amount of lightness and delicacy. You will need to start with a whole head of cabbage despite not needing it all – luckily there are many other uses for it.
- 1 large head savoy cabbage
- splash of olive oil
- ½ onion, finely sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 7 large sage leaves, finely sliced
- 90 g coarsely ground fatty pork mince
- ¼ cup cooked brown rice, soft
- ¼ cup cooked barley, left with a little bite
- ¼ cup cooked puy lentils
- 60 g ricotta
- 50 g sharp pecorino, finely grated
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated
- 1 tbsp red vinegar
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- 20 g butter
- robust extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- river salt and black pepper, to season
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.
Cut the cabbage at the core and unravel the leaves. The aim is to end up with 8 lovely leaves, about 14 cm x 20 cm. Depending on how large your cabbage is and how loose the leaves are this can be very easy or slightly harder. Cut out and discard the hard spine. Reserve any scraps to use in the stuffing.
Blanch the leaves and any scraps, in batches, in boiling salted water for about 20 seconds each before immersing in a bowl of iced water. Place in a colander to drain, and set aside.
Heat a small frying pan on medium heat and add a splash of oil. Add the onion, garlic and a little seasoning and gently cook for 3–4 minutes, until softened. Add the sage, give it a final stir, and transfer to a bowl to cool.
Place a large-ish mixing bowl on the benchtop. Hold the pork mince in your hand and then slap it against the inside of the bowl. Do this a few times until sticky and combined.
Grab the blanched cabbage leaf scraps, squeeze out any excess water and finely slice. Set aside.
Add cooled onion mixture to the pork along with ½ cup of sliced cabbage leaf scraps, rice, barley, lentils, cheeses and lemon zest. Using your hands, mix thoroughly. Add the vinegar and a little more seasoning. Cook a little of the mixture in a small frying pan to test for seasoning. You want it to be quite strongly seasoned. Add a little extra vinegar if you feel it needs it. Mix through the parsley.
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Pat dry 1 blanched cabbage leaf with paper towel and place it flat on a board or the benchtop. Take a small mound of the pork mixture, about 100 g, and place it in a small pile at the bottom of the leaf in the centre. Start rolling the leaf up and around the filling, folding in one side as you go. One side of the leaf should be straight from where you removed the spine and the other will be frilly. Fold the straight side in and leave the frilly side open. You should end up with a nice tight, neat roll that is open and frilly on one side.
Place the completed roll into a 25 cm x 30 cm baking dish. Continue with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling, placing the completed rolls snuggled up next to each other in a row.
Pour the chicken stock over the rolls and cover the baking dish with foil.
Place into the preheated oven and cook for 20–25 minutes. Insert a small knife into one of the rolls to make sure it’s hot and cooked on the inside. Increase the oven temperature to 210C and cook the rolls, uncovered, for a further 10–15 minutes, until dark golden on top.
Remove from the oven and carefully pour the stock into a small saucepan. Set aside the rolls in a warm place to rest.
Heat the stock on high for a few minutes, until reduced by half. Whisk in the butter.
To serve, place the rolls on a large serving dish and pour over the reduced stock. Finish with an extra sprinkle of salt and a good drizzle of oil.
• This can easily become a vegetarian dish by omitting the pork and increasing the amount of grains. You may need to add an egg for binding and use vegetable stock instead.
• You can substitute the pecorino with another strong, hard and salty cheese.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Rachael Lane.
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This recipe is part of The Seasonal Cook: Cabbage column.
View previous The Seasonal Cook columns and recipes.