Tuesday 22 October 2013

Cabbage Patch Roll-ups and Citrussy Roasted Cauliflower

You know how you always roll your eyes when people say "I can't be racist, I have friends who are <insert minority here>!"

Well, I feel a bit like that when I cook vegetarian meals.  Like I'm saying to vegetarians, "hey, I get it, I 
cook vegetarian meals too!  I LOVE quinoa!"  I draw the line at quorn, though. *shudder*

I do like to get my meat at the Farmers Market, so to afford it I need to cook vegetarian part of the week to balance out the expense.  Meatless Mondays are all the rage, so I hear...and it feels like a Monday as the kids went back to school and nursery today.  And I had to do something to pass the time until the Great British Bake Off final.

One of my Facebook friends has a vegetarian husband and occasionally sends out requests for good veggie family meals.  One of her friends recommended Veg Every Day by the River Cottage guy, Hugh whatshisface.  I've had a few people rave about his recipes to me, and after seeing the cookbook had good reviews by vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike, I impulsively bought it.  It looks promising, but it is definitely a chef's cookbook, in that there are lots of instructions like "cook this 2 minutes, then this 10 minutes, then add this and cook 5 minutes, then add THIS and cook 8 minutes, but on a lower heat, then add THIS and increase the heat and cook for 20 minutes..." and on and on it goes.  When managing kids, these instructions are a big pain in the backside.  I want to be able to throw everything in a pot in a relatively short space of time, not have 7 different additions of ingredients over the space of an hour with long sessions of simmering on different heats in between.  That kind of precision just is not going to happen, so generally when I attack his recipes I feel I'm going to have to lump things together.

I made this cabbage roll recipe once before, and while they tasted good, the cabbage leaves were too tough, so this time I decided to double the recipe for the sauce that goes in with the rolls and cover them in the oven when I cook them.  So here's what I gathered together:

First I started on the sauce.  The basics (onion, celery, carrots, and garlic) got chopped up and cooked to soften them a bit with a some thyme (sprig of thyme, Hugh? HA! I'm not buying a whole pack of fresh thyme for a lousy sprig.  Dried thyme it is) and a bay leaf:

Next time I think I'll just throw all them in together at the start.

Then in went a bottle of passata and a box of chopped tomatoes with a bit of water too.

I let that simmer for a while.  I had to - there was a baby crying.

Then I pulled the outer leaves off a cabbage.  Hugh said 12, so I picked 15, I think, as I usually need a few extra at hand just in case.  I hate having leftover filling, it feels like so much more a waste than leftover cabbage leaves.

I blanched them for a bit longer than he said, somewhere around 5 to six minutes, just to make sure I didn't end up with tough leaves again.

And on to the filling.  I cooked some onion and garlic.

To them I added currants, walnuts, lemon zest, a handful of dill, and a bunch of parsley, Last time I used sultanas and I wish I had this time as well; I hate the odd crunch that currant seeds provide.  With this ready, I put the quinoa on to cook.

Then I decided to spend some quality time with my daughter.  I felt like a smug, efficient supermum. We did puzzles, read books, laughed together...then I smelled something.

Oh, crap.

Note to self: SET THE *&%$ TIMER!  For the record, I did try the stuff on top to see if it was alright to use, but it tasted foul  Ok, so the rolls were going to have quinoa in them, but now I was out of the trendy supergrain.  While that pan soaked, I cooked some bulgur wheat and muttered to myself.

Once I managed to successfully cook the bulgur wheat, in it went with the other filling ingredients.

Oh, and an egg went in too.

Assembly time.  Did you know that the inspiration for Ford's assembly line came from watching the efficient slaughterhouses of a big American city?  Catherine was part of the assembly line today; she spooned the filling in, then I rolled up the leaves and placed them in the dish.

Aw, aren't those little bundles cute?

Then we poured the sauce over them.  No more cuteness.

On to the cauliflower.

One of the advantages of being in with the local farm folk is that you get vegetables like this:

Have you ever seen a more beautiful vegetable?

Sorry, do I sound a bit like Uncle Monty in Withnail and I?  Well, it is almost too pretty to cut, with all those mini spirals.  Almost.

One of my pet peeves is recipes that call for either zest of a lemon or the juice, but not both.  By combining the stuffed cabbage recipe with the cauliflower one, I got to use up my zested lemon.  Yay!

It's the little things, people.  So the cauliflower got chopped up and drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, and paprika.

Into the oven went everything, and after half an hour it came out looking like this:

A sample meal for a little one, minus the dollop of sour cream:

Did the kids all love it?  Of course not, don't be ridiculous.  But they each had a few bites of their cabbage rolls and ate several pieces of cauliflower.  I feel it is an important part of childhood to be given food you do not want to eat and no alternative except for hunger.  The faces they pulled were impressive, and good practice for Hallowe'en.  I liked both recipes, though, and intend to make them again.  I'll just try not to burn the quinoa next time.


Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

12-15 outer leaves from a large Savoy cabbage
For the Tomato Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
a couple pinches of dried thyme
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 bottle passata
1 box chopped tomatoes
seasoning to taste
For the Filling
120g bulgur wheat or quinoa
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
50 sultanas
50g walnuts
zest 1 lemon
a bunch of parsley, chopped
a handful of dill, chopped
1 large egg

To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan and soften onion, bay leaf, thyme, carrots and celery.  Add garlic and cook a bit more before dumping in passata and tomatoes and maybe 200ml or so of water.  Simmer until thickened, about 15 min...or half an hour...whatever fits your schedule.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

To make the filling, cook the quinoa or bulgur wheat according to the instructions.  Heat olive oil and cook onion and garlic.  Tip it into a bowl and add quinoa/bulgur wheat, sultanas, walnuts, zest and herbs, stirring well.  Season and add egg and stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  Prepare an ovenproof dish that will fit all the cabbage rolls.  Taking one leaf at a time, place a big spoonful of the filling mixture into the centre of each leaf, fold over the sides and roll up from the stalk end to make a cute bundle. Carefully place in dish seam side down and repeat until filling is used up.  Toothpicks can be used to keep leaves in place, just remember to take them out before serving to small children.  

Pour the sauce over the top and cover with foil, then bake for 35 minutes until piping hot.  Serve with sour cream.

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Paprika


1 medium cauliflower
2 lemons
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 220 degrees.  Cut the cauliflower into medium florets and rinse.  Put into a large roasting tray, then drizzle over the olive oil and juice from one of the lemons.  Sprinkle over the paprika.  Cut the remaining lemon into 5 segments and scatter amongst the cauliflower.  Roast in oven for 30 minutes, until florets are turning brown at edges.

Once they are out of the oven, burn yourself by squeezing the roasted lemon segments over the cauliflower.

*I've given the temperatures as in the recipes I used, but I actually cooked both at the same time in a fan/convection oven at 200 degrees for half an hour with the cauliflower on the top rack and the cabbage rolls below

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