Layered Savoy cabbage, mince & rice

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Lois had an academic approach to curating recipes for her Listener column. Often not content with picking up ‘second hand’ recipes, Lois would try and get as close to the source of a recipe as possible. Lois would seek out books on traditional cookery from particular countries and cultural groups, and try out recipes she came across in historical accounts or memoirs. Conversations with friends, neighbours and colleagues about their own food culture was another source of inspiration for Lois, and this Hungarian-derived recipe for layered savoy cabbage with mince and rice came by way of her friend Klara.

Savoy cabbages are such a visually beautiful winter vegetable and in this dish they are really given a starring role. Layers of cabbage are alternated with layers of a gently spiced rice and mince mixture and then baked in the oven until the top layer of cabbage turns deliciously dark brown and crunchy. Once baked, it is served with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of yoghurt on top to make a perfectly balanced ‘one bowl’ dinner.

Layered Savoy cabbage, mince & rice (Klara do Toit & Lois Daish, Listener, July 18 1998)

1 medium Savoy cabbage (about 1kg)

3/4 cup long grain rice

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

300g good quality beef mince

2 teaspoons paprika

generous pinch of caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup beef stock or water

oil for greasing baking dish

1 tablespoon dry breadcrumbs

For serving:

plain unsweetened yoghurt (I use The Collective)

a lemon, cut into quarters

Cut out the core of the cabbage by turning it upside down and cutting in a circle around the core with a small knife. As you do this the outside leaves of the cabbage will fall off. Carry on pulling off the leaves until you get down to the small tight core of the cabbage which can be discarded. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add the cabbage leaves (do this in batches if your pot isn’t large enough). Use a spoon to push the leaves down into the water and and place the lid back on. Once the cabbage leaves have softened (about 3-4 minutes), remove from the water and drain in a colander.

Wash the rice in a sieve and put in a covered saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and then turn right down to low and cook until all of the water is absorbed; about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the rice on the still warm element.

Preheat oven to 190°C (fan bake setting). Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes before adding the beef mince. Continue to cook (stirring to break up any lumps) until the beef is no longer pink, then add the paprika, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Add the beef stock and cook until it has been absorbed – this will take about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Brush an ovenware dish (approximately 25 x 18cm) with oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Spread a double layer of cabbage leaves in the dish, then a thin layer of the rice mixture. Repeat the layering two or three times finishing with cabbage leaves on top. Bake for about 45 minutes. To serve, cut into squares and serve with a dollop of yoghurt on top and a wedge of lemon on the side to squeeze over top.

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