Polish-style Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Sophie Gordon has created a vegan version of the classic Polish dish of meat-stuffed cabbage wraps, with a nut and grain-based filling with the perfect 'meaty' texture and plenty of flavour.
My dad often talks about the variety of dishes he had when he was a kid. We used to get together with his family in a little authentic Polish restaurant in West London. I’d see these stuffed cabbage leaves flying around and always wanted to try them, but alas, to my disappointment they had meat in them. I attempted a few variations before landing on this recipe. The spelt creates a lovely chewy texture inside the leaves and the sauce brings it all together. A very colourful dish!
|For the cabbage/ filling:|
|1||medium green or white cabbage, leaves separated|
|Approx. 120g||grain of choice (pearled spelt, rice, barley)|
|1||brown or white onion, finely chopped|
|2 tbsp||soy sauce or tamari|
|2 cloves of||garlic, crushed or finely chopped|
|A small handful of||fresh parsley, finely chopped|
|A small handful of||fresh dill, finely chopped (optional)|
|6||medium button/ chestnut mushrooms, very finely chopped|
|1||lemon, juiced, plus dash of zest|
|4 tsp||smoked paprika|
|1 tsp||ground allspice|
|salt and pepper|
|1 heaped tbsp||tahini|
|50g||walnuts, roughly chopped|
|2 heaped tbsp||raisins/sultanas/ currants|
|For the tomato sauce:|
|½–1 tbsp||olive oil|
|1||small onion (any variety), finely chopped|
|2–4 cloves of||garlic, crushed or finely chopped, depending on how garlicky you’d|
|2 heaped tbsp||tomato purée|
|½ tbsp||miso paste|
|4 large or 8 small||tomatoes (any variety), roughly chopped (see note)|
|1–2 tsp||dried thyme|
|1–2 tsp||dried oregano|
|salt and pepper|
Preheat your oven to 200°C fan. Carefully separate the leaves of your cabbage from the base. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage leaves for around 2–3 minutes, just to cook them through, making them easy to handle when stuffing. Drain and place to one side while you make the filling.
Cook your grain according to the packet instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water. If using a slower-cooking grain, you can factor this into the overall cooking time. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
While your grain is cooking, make the sauce and filling. For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a shallow pan. Add the onion and sauté until slightly golden and fragrant, then add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or so. Add the tomato purée, miso, chopped tomatoes, thyme, oregano and a dash of water to loosen. Season well with salt and pepper, stirring to combine.
Allow to simmer on a low heat, encouraging the tomatoes to soften and cook into a thick sauce. You can add a little more water if the sauce is sticking or too thick. When the desired consistency is reached, turn off the heat, ready for pouring over the cabbage leaves.
Over a low-medium heat, sauté your onions in the soy sauce or tamari. They will start to go brown quickly and will caramelize ever so slightly. Add a dash of water if they dry up too much. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or so, then add the parsley and dill, stirring to combine, and then the mushrooms. Mix well. Add the lemon juice and zest, along with the paprika and allspice. Season well with salt and pepper and add a dash of water to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan.
Transfer to a bowl and add the tahini, walnuts and sultanas, as well as your drained cooked grain. Season again with salt and pepper and stir well.
To build and serve, take your blanched cabbage leaves and place them flat on a surface. Divide your filling between the leaves (you can do as many leaves as you need in order to use up your filling) and roll them up carefully, starting from the bottom stem and tucking in the sides. Gently squeeze them to keep compact and place them in a baking dish. Continue until the dish is full and you have no mixture left.
Evenly pour over the tomato sauce, spreading it as you wish. Put into the oven to bake and warm through for about 20–25 minutes. They should be lovely and brown on top. Remove from the oven and serve on their own or with a simple side salad.
Note: You can use a tin of tomatoes here if you can’t find any fresh ones, depending on the season or what you want to use from your cupboard. Use tinned whole tomatoes, if you can.
Waste tips: You can use any choice of grain in this dish, instead of the suggestions above, or feel free to use lentils or another cooked grain, depending on what you have in. Sometimes I’ll add carrots and/or celery to the mix, or you can keep it very basic. Feel free to omit the mushrooms should you want to stick to cupboard ingredients, or add another vegetable of choice if you have leftovers. You can make big batches of the tomato sauce, as it keeps really well in the fridge or freezer. It’s ideal for adding to pastas or rice dishes for something quick and hearty. This dish will keep in the fridge for a few days, so you could serve it cold with a plant-based yoghurt or cream, or even with hummus.