A classic Ukrainian dish, my favourite is Golubtsi (Little Pigeons): rolled cabbage leaves stuffed classically with meat and rice, in a rich tomato sauce. My recipe is shamelessly adopted from the Hungarian recipe and is dedicated to the fond memory of my adaptable and loving “nagymama”.
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 120 mins
- 1 head of cabbage
- 500g of meat or mushrooms
- 2 cups of rice when uncooked or 4 cooked or ready prepared
- Onions, carrots, celery chopped (optional) and garlic to taste
- Celery salt
- Dill (if easily available)
- Paprika (just for looks)
- A large jar of your favourite pasta sauce and a tin of tomatoes or (luxury) sun-dried tomatoes
- Added possibilities: sauerkraut, lemon if you prefer it tart
Vegetarian variants are available. No doubt in hardship periods of the past, meat could be absent. Stuffed Cabbage is a dish found throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and families can come to blows over the choice of the correct version. This is just one – and an encouragement to celebrate flexibility and inventiveness.
It’s considered wise to cook a lot and freeze. True, this works well but requires more organisation, including a large freezer. This does taste even better on day two.
- Blanch the head of cabbage for five minutes in a large pot, sauté the meat or mushrooms, prepare the rice, add the seasoning and judicious salt and some of the sauce. The effort will be in stuffing the softened leaves with the tasty mixture.
- Stuff and roll the leaves around your choice of stuffing. This will be chopped meat, lightly sautéed, seasoned with celery salt, and rice. For vegetarians, consider mushrooms. Add onions if you wish, crushed garlic. Then mix with slightly undercooked rice. Don’t feel you must use bland unflavoured white rice. Just experiment. Use some of the sauce inside the rolls.
- Put the ingredients in a heavy pan called a Dutch oven, or try a slow cooker. Cover liberally with the sauce, which can just be a thick tomato juice if you are willing to let it simmer for two hours. A bit of sauerkraut does wonders.
My final twist: an almost equally delicious dish can be whipped up without the pain, by forgoing the saga of blanching and stuffing cabbage leaves but simply adding slices to meat and rice, or rice and mushrooms, in a rich tomato sauce. Take the latter from a jar, if you will, and add your own mix of chopped dill, garlic and celery salt, and a few juicy plum tomatoes for texture. Sauerkraut or lemon juice cuts through the sweetness.
You choose your variant. The recipe here is flexible ... the people of Ukraine have shown us the spirit of survival, and this dish is a sharing and comfort dish which encourages us to face our own challenges.
Recipe By Andrea Boyle, Executive Officer, Directorate. We've got loads of recipe articles on Halls Life to give you inspiration which you'll be spoilt for choice over!
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