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STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
Golubtsy

Stuffed cabbage rolls with lingonberry jam In this dish, the largest leaves from a white cabbage are detached, filled with stuffing and baked in oven until soft and done. Since in most cases the cabbage has a very tight, compact head, it has to be softened by boiling in order to detach the leaves without breaking them.

Stuffed cabbage rolls are very time consuming to prepare, but they are worth the effort.

One large head of cabbage usually yields just about enough leaves for the amount of stuffing stated below, but I sometimes use two cabbage leaves instead of one in wrapping of one roll, making the cabbage layer thicker, and the flavour better  —  after all, cabbage is the main star of cabbage rolls, not the stuffing :-)

The below recipe features cabbage rolls baked in Russian style (golubtsy  —  served with creamy tomato sauce) and in Nordic style (served with sugared lingonberries).

1 - 2 large heads of white cabbage
stuffing:
about 400 g ground beef (uncooked)
200 ml cream
2 egg yolks
1 medium onion
75 ml short grain rice
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
sauce:
melted butter
400 ml smetana
140 g tomato paste
beef stock
(dark or light molasses or Canadian maple syrup)

Cored cabbage For a tight-headed cabbage:
Cut a deep cone-shaped incision into the bottom of the cabbage(s) and remove the core(s), see the picture on right. Place the whole cabbage, bottom side down, in a large saucepan, at least half-submerged in simmering water.

Cook the cabbage, turning it occasionally, until its leaves start to soften. Gently and carefully, without ripping them, pull off the leaves one at a time as they soften and become loose. Preferably use tongs and be careful not to burn yourself with the boiling water.

Place the boiled leaves to drain in a large colander or on paper towels. The softened leaves should bend easily, without breaking  —  if necessary, cook them for a few minutes longer in boiling water to make them more pliable. Leave the smallest leaves at the very core of the cabbage attached as they are too small to be filled. They can be used to patch up the larger leaves in case these are ripped.

For a loose-headed cabbage:
If the cabbage has a loose head so that the leaves may be easily detached without being torn apart, you can just boil the leaves in batches instead of boiling the whole cabbage and wait for the leaves to soften a few at a time. Drain the boiled, softened leaves in a large colander or on paper towels. Some people microwave the cabbage leaves, which should be an easier and quicker method to soften them.

Stuffing:
To make the stuffing, cook the rice until tender, rinse it with cold water and leave to drain. Chop the onion very finely. To soften its taste, the onion may be sautéed in a little butter before mixing into the stuffing. Mix the ground meat with the rice, chopped onion, cream, egg yolks and spices.

The stuffing should be much runnier than eg a meatloaf mixture, so add some more cream or cabbage cooking liquid if it seems too stiff. You may also finely chop the smallest, unattached leaves of the cabbage and add to the stuffing mixture if you like  —  otherwise, discard them or use them in some other dish or to patch up the larger leaves in case these are ripped.

Stuff the cabbage leaves: place the leaves one at a time on the work surface and trim their thick ribs thinner with a sharp knife, pressing the leaves flat against the work surface as you cut (see figures 1 and 2 below). Be careful not to pierce the leaves, or the stuffing will ooze out.

Figure 1 Arrow Figure 2
Figure 1   Figure 2

Spoon about 1 - 2 tablespoons of stuffing on the convex side of one leaf, fold the bottom part of the leaf over the filling, fold in the sides and continue rolling to enclose the filling (see figures 3 - 7 below). Some egg white may be brushed on the folds of the leaf before rolling to "glue" it together firmly. Repeat with the remaining leaves and stuffing.

Arrow Figure 3 Arrow Figure 4
  Figure 3   Figure 4
Arrow Figure 5 Arrow Figure 6
  Figure 5   Figure 6
Arrow Figure 7
  Figure 7

Baking cabbage rolls in Russian style:
Place the cabbage rolls snugly in one layer in a wide, generously buttered oven pan, with their seam side down (see figure 8 below). Brush the rolls generously with melted butter or dot the surface with knobs of butter.

Bake at 175 - 200 °C for about 20 minutes. Take the pan out, turn the rolls over, brush again with melted butter and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the rolls are starting to brown slightly. Reduce the heat to 150 °C and bake for about 1½ hours, or until the rolls are nicely browned. About every 30 minutes, turn the rolls over to prevent them from burning and drying out.

Cabbage rolls in tomato sauce Mix the smetana with tomato paste and add some stock (or water or cream) to make the mixture a bit thinner. Towards the end of cooking, pour the smetana mixture evenly over the rolls and continue baking until the cabbage is tender and the filling cooked through. You may cover the pan with foil towards the end of cooking if the rolls seem to brown too much.

Serve the rolls with boiled or pureed potatoes and spoon the tomato sauce from the pan over the rolls (see the picture above).

Baking cabbage rolls in Finnish style:
Place the cabbage rolls snugly in one layer in a wide, generously buttered oven pan, with their seam side down (see figure 8 below). Mix equal amounts of melted butter and molasses and brush the rolls with half of the mixture. (Or you can just drizzle 1 - 2 tablespoons molasses over the rolls and dot the surface with knobs of butter, like shown in figure 9 below.)

Figure 8 Arrow Figure 9
Figure 8   Figure 9

Baked Finnish cabbage rolls Bake at 175 - 200 °C for about 20 minutes. Take the pan out, turn the rolls over (brush with the rest of the butter-molasses mixture) and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the rolls are starting to brown slightly. Then reduce the heat to 150 °C and bake for about 1½ hours, or until the rolls are nicely browned and cooked through (see the picture on bottom right).

About every 30 minutes, turn the rolls over to prevent them from burning and drying out. Cover the pan with foil towards the end of cooking if the rolls seem to brown too much.

Finnish cabbage rolls are traditionally served with potato puree or boiled potatoes and sugared lingonberries or lingonberry jam (see the picture at the top of page).


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