Hope you all had a very lovely Christmas and were able to indulge in as many Christmas dishes as you could … but now many of us tend to gravitate towards lighter yet nourishing foods. In general, to tune in with the seasons, winter is more about dormancy and resting, giving our body a break especially after all the feasting and partying of Christmas.
Sauerkraut Mushroom soup is a hugely popular winter dish in Russia that will nourish your body and soul. It is special for the Russian Orthodox Christans because this is what they serve during the long fast from the end of November until January 7th. In accordance with the strict rules no meat, bacon, animal fat, butter, eggs or milk may be eaten during this time period. This tradition was particularly hard for the farmers who had to work outside and needed heavier foods to survive. The cooks had to be creative and came up with this delicious, hearty soup … that today would fit the vegan definition.
This is a lovely soup that has three simple main ingredients: sauerkraut, mushrooms and the barley. Mushrooms are a nice substitution for meat so use as much as you desire. In Eastern Europe, it is customary in the fall to go out in the woods and pick mushrooms. People then dry them to use during the cold months. If you don’t have access to wild mushrooms, buy stronger flavored mushrooms like morrel, oyster, shitaki or even crimini mushrooms could work. The sauerkraut of course gives it the nice sour flavor and has immense health benefits. The crunchy barley adds the robust part to the soup.
PLEASE READ !!! I use cep mushrooms but if you don’t know how to find edible mushrooms in the wild, definitely go to the stores and purchase them there. Mushrooms are very valuable but there can be some poisonous ones. Stores sell some fine mushrooms that are dried and are worth using. Just soak them in water and then they are ready to be used. Last time I used shitaki mushrooms and I thoght was a nice substitution.
The soup will need a good home-made stock. Both a meat based or a vegetable based stock would work great. You can use beef bones but the vegatarian version is great too. For the vegetarian stock I added onions, garlic, 2 bay leaf, 1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorn, handfull of mushrooms, 1 celery root, couple of carrots and parsley root. Honestly, we could not taste much difference. Don’t forget to put celery root in the stock it surely adds something special to the flavor.
1 lb sourkraut
80 gr (3oz) dried mushrooms or about 6 oz fresh mushrooms (Please see above for more info on safety).
1 cup dry pearled barley
1-2 qt (1-2L) of vegetable or beef stock (please see above)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds
few thyme springs
shallots or small onion
2 cloves of garlic
If using dried mushrooms, soak in water for a couple hours or maybe even overnight if needed.
Make the stock. Please see above for more info.
Make the barley. Boil 3 cups of water and put barley in the boiling water. Turn down and let cook for 1 hour without cover.
In a medium saucepan, sautee the shallots in a little oil for a few minutes.
Add the garlic on low heat. Mix.
Add drained sauerkraut, thyme spring, caraway seeds, bay leaves. Cover with stock. Cook for 1 hour.
For the last 10 minutes, add the mushrooms slices.
Often when you ask children what their favorite holiday is they say … Christmas! And then you ask why … because they get presents. I’m sure that is how I would have answered those questions back when I was a little girl. This is a very magical holiday for sure … but as we get older, we start thinking about giving too.
Many people enjoy giving treats at Christmas time. But where did the idea of Christmas gift giving come from? … and what about Santa and his rein deer?
Let’s go back in time. It is believed that it came from an old Pagan tradition. Giving gifts can strengthen the ‘family and well-being of others’, an important theme during this time of the year. This custom was part of the tradition of exchanging mushrooms as a gift at the time in the Northern part of Siberia. Mushrooms were special because of their connection to longevity. People delivered the wrapped carefully prepared dried mushrooms to people’s houses for celebrating the winter solstice. There was so much snow that they could not open the doors and the packages had to be dropped off through the holes on top of the yurts where the smoke could escape. Also, these people used rein deer for transportation in the snow. Also check this out … I need to mention that their traditional clothing is red and white even today … hence comes the story of Santa dressed in red and white, delivering presents through the chimney down the fire place with the help of some rein deer…
After so many years we are still exchanging gifts. Giving home-made foods can be meaningful for both the giver and the receiver. If you are not sure what to give this year, maybe consider giving cookies. I’m presenting two different cookie recipes that can be gifted during the holidays. They are ‘Christmas’-y and mouth watering.
Wishing evereyone a very merry Christmas!
Please check out the following links for the recipes.
You can surely impress your guests with these rich chocolate cookies or maybe you can just use this recipe for a last minute gift for your neighbors… The crunchy outside is coupled with the melt-in-your-mouth soft inside and is elevated to another level with the espresso flavor. Enjoy!
Makes 16 cookies
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tsp instant espresso
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for coating
Start melting the chocolate. I used a double boiler.
In a larger bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder and salt. Make sure you use some kind of a sifter, tea strainer as the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder need to be without knots. Set aside.
In a seperate bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the egg and mix until incorpoated.
Mix in the melted chocolate and the milk.
Add the flour mixture from earlier until you get a ball shaped dough. Put in a plastic bag and place in the freezer for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter a cookie sheet. Form 2 inch balls.
Pour 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a medium sized bowl. In batches, roll the balls in the sugar and let the balls sit for a minute in the sugar. Repeat one more time.
Place the balls about 1 inches apart on the cookie sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes. They should be soft but not fall apart. Let the cookies stay on the baking sheet for 5 minutes to cool.
Transfer them on a wire rack for 15 minutes. They will harden.
Meringue cookies have been one of my favorite Holiday desserts since my childhood … maybe because I don’t care much for the heavier desserts that much but still enjoy a bit of sweetness during Christmas time. These beautiful cookies are delicious and airy with just the right amount of texture with the nuts and the almond essence. They would be a great gift for those friends and family members who like something sweet with a little bit of crunchiness or eat gluten free foods. Of course, this is a great recipe to have on hand so you can use up all those left over egg whites. Enjoy!
(makes about 2-3 dozens)
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup of granulated sugar (regular sugar pulsed for about 10 seconds in a food processor)
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup of finally chopped walnuts or pecans or almonds
1/4 tsp cream of tatar
Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
Line a baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a larger sized bowl, on medium high speed quickly beat (few minutes) the egg whites until they are frothy but not hard. Do not over beat.
Add the sugar gradually on high speed. It is important to add the sugar 1 Tbsp at a time to make sure they get incorporated nicely. I had a family member who did this. On a low setting beat in the vanilla, cream of tartar, almond extract and salt. Gently fold in the nuts with a spatula.
Drop a tablespoon-full of the eggwhite mixture onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. I used a piping bag with a large nozzle to get a more uniform shapes.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cookies should not be damp. Leave them in the oven for another hour while the oven is cooling.
Winter has finally arrived in the Midwest of the United State … and it looks like it is here to stay after all the crazyness of this year. We had snow in September and in October … and had 80 degree weather inbetween. I am definitely ready!
December brings forth Winter Wonderland and the Holidays. When I think of Christmas dishes, warming and festive winter foods come to my mind. For me Christmas is a lot about cooking and baking … and of course music. I’m already looking forward to all the baking and cooking I will be doing and singing along my favorite Christmas music…
Please read my previous blogs from last year on winter eating and tasty dishes and desserts.
I like challenges … well ok sometimes it is a bit uncomfortable … but then I end up with something delicious like the dish I’m presenting here today.
The savory stuffing made with cabbage, mushrooms and lentils is wrapped in a flakey strudel dough and is seasoned with the warming spices of the season. To make it even more festive, serve it with port sauce and brussel sprouts with chestnuts.
I was looking for a vegetarian Christmas dish… seriously, traditionally would there be such a thing? … I have seen mushroom strudel served in the winter before but did not find it filling enough as a main dish. Then came the idea … maybe because I was craving cabbage strudel the whole fall … to make the strudel with half mushrooms and half cabbage … then added the lentils and the cheese in place of the meat and a few spices and … this festive dish was born. Cabbage is a staple vegetable for the winter and has been traditionally paired with mushrooms. My non-vegetarian guests really enjoyed a slice with their meat dish. Of course, the vegetarians were asking for seconds.
5-7 sheets of filo dough
1/4 cup chopped shallots
4-8 oz mushrooms (crimini) (chopped into small pieces)
2-4 oz of savoy cabbage (I prefer savoy but green cabbage is fine)
1 celery stalk
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup uncooked lentils (1/2 cup of cooked lentils)
Take filo dough out of the freezer. Let it thaw slowly.
Clean and soak the lentils for a few hours. Cook lentils.
Chop up the shallots and the celery and sauté them in some oil for 5- 10 minutes. Set aside.
Chop up and sauté the mushrooms in some oil for 10 more minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Add to previous mixture.
Start slicing the cabbage up and cut them up into small pieces. Discard the lager veins of the cabbage so you are left with the tender leaves only. Sautee the cabbage leaves for about 10 minutes. Add paprika and the garlic to activate for 1 minute, stir and add the cold stock. Add chopped thyme leaves, nutmeg and chopped rosemary leaves. Cook the mixture for about 10 minutes on low heat. Add to the onion mixture from earlier.
Chop up the nuts. I leave the hazelnuts chunkier. The walnuts are coarsely chopped. A small food processor can be used. Add to previous onion mixture.
In a medium sized bowl, add 1 lightly beaten egg, mustard, the nuts, the cooked lentils, mushroom/ cabbage mixture from above, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Let the stuffing cool, refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Take 7 sheets of filo dough and set it on a wooden board. I like to put a piece of parchment paper below the filo dough, it is helpful for rolling. Drizzle some oil and grade some nutmeg. Spread the filling evenly on the sheet leaving 1 inch on each side empty. Roll it up. Placed it in an oiled baking dish.
Lightly beat 1 egg, add some freshly graded nutmeg and salt. Spread it on top of the rolled strudel. Wait for 5-10 minutes until egg wash is absorbed. Apply the egg-wash again. The 1 egg should cover the strudel both times. You can sprinkle additional salt and nutmeg on the top. This will make the crust really tasty.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes or until top is nice and brown.
Put left-over filo dough if there is any left in the fridge gently wrapped up in plastic bags so the leaves don’t dry out.
Serve hot with the port sauce (see below) and brussel sprouts with chestnuts. I also like to add cranberry sauce (recipe).
Directions for the port sauce
In a small pot, sautee the shallots in some oil or butter. Add the flour for 1 min, stir. Add the garlic, stir for 30 seconds.
Add the wine and stock. Stir.
Add the thyme and rosemary springs. Cover the pot.
Cook for about 20 minutes.
Take out the bay leaves, thyme and rosemary springs.
Take off the heat, add the cream, salt and pepper.
Serve right away. Can be stored in the fridge for many days.
Flódni is a unique traditional Jewish Hungarian dessert. The original recipe uses apples, poppy seed, walnuts, plum jam and all these ingredients are baked into a flour pastry. This recipe uses the three main ingredients: apples, poppy seeds and walnuts plus the plums but has no crust. It is a gluten free recipe, in fact it is a very clever gluten free twist to the original recipe as the carbohydrates come from the poppy seeds. Its sour, bitter and sweet flavors come together to give a distinct culinary experience.
Traditionally, it is made at the end of the year for Christmas and Hannukah but can be eaten any time during the year. It is filled with symbolic meanings for the end of the year. Each layer is rich and decadent and according to folk traditions can supposedly bring prosperity, health and protection for the entire family.
I was inspired by the recipe that came from a website – credited at the end. I have been making this delicious alternative at Christmas time for years. I made some changes to the original recipe. I moved some sugar from the nut filling into the poppyseed filling. I also added plums and some alcohol to the poppy seed filling as the original version calls for it and I believe they worked nicely here too. Oh and honestly adding a little ginger to the walnuts can do wonders.
200g (about 1 cup) poppyseeds
1 Tbsp melted butter (coconut oil for dairy free version)
3 eggs divided
1/4 cup of sugar
handful of raisins
peel and juice of 1 orange or lemon or both
2 Tbsp of rum (optional)
1 kg (about 7 medium) tasty cooking apples
1 Tbsp fresh ground ginger or 1.5 tsp dried ginger, cut and sifted
2 Tbsp of sugar or honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/4 ground cloves
150 grams (5oz) of ground walnuts
4 egg whites
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp dried cut and sifted ginger
Making the apples. Wash, peel and core the apples. Grade them through the large holes of a cheese grader. Add 2 Tbsp of rum, ginger, ground cinnamon and cloves, pinch of salt and 2 Tbsp of sugar/honey. Put the mixture in a medium sized pot and cook it on high medium heat until the liquid evaporates.
Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C).
Making the poppy seed layer. Grind poppy seeds. (Coffee grinder works well). Mix with the melted butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, 3 egg yolks, plums, the raisins, rum, orange/lemon peel, pinch of salt and the juice of the orange or lemon. Beat the 3 egg whites until stiff. Gently fold it into the poppy seed mixture.
Spread the poppyseed mixture onto a lightly buttered baking pan (8×11.5×2″). Gently spread the apple mixture on top of the poppy seed mixture and place the dish in the preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes.
Walnut/egg white toping: Have the ground walnuts ready. By the end of the 40 minutes, beat the 4 egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in the walnuts and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Spread this mixture on top of the apples and put the dish back into the oven at 250F (120C) for another 30-40 minutes.
Let it cool and settle. Serve at room temperature.
The floral, earth flavored poppy seed (Papaver somniferum) is a popular winter food. I can’t imagine winter especially Christmas without it. It is often used in sweet savory dishes, like the poppyseed roll, beigli. The poppy seeds pair nicely with the sour sweet oranges along with some raisins in this tasty sweet dish from Hungary. Particularly, poppy seeds symbolize health, fertility and prosperity that are important themes for the Christmas and winter solstice celebration.
When I got married there were two desserts that I could make. One for the summer and the other for the winter and ooops I forgot one for birthdays. Of course, beigli was for the winter. Not sure how this worked out but I’m guessing it is because there is no Christmas without beigli and my husband picked up the tradition very quickly as well. I have to let you know that it takes 4-5 hours to make this dessert, of course most of this time is needed for letting the dough rise.
There is a little history. Poppy seeds have always been an important staple in the Hungarian cuisine. Beigli has been around for a while but no one knows the exact story behind it. One possibility is that it had originated in the old Hungarian city of Pozsony, today known as Bratislava that is now in the Czech republic. Beigli started appearing on the Christmas tables only about 200 years ago. Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time so it makes sense that so many other Central European countries make it for Christmas as well. According to historical counts, it was Franz Jozeph, one of the Austrian emperor’s favorite foods next to the isler and the sacher.
You will need to get a lot of poppy seeds. The little bottles that they sell at the supermarkets will not be enough as this recipe requires 10 oz. I purchased mine at penzeys.com but you should be able to find it in many smaller grocery stores. When I got poppy seeds recently at Penzey’s, the clerk checking me out reminded me that poppy seeds needed to be stored in the freezer if not used up. Poppy seeds go rancid easily because of their high fat content. I told her that this will not be a problem because we eat it fast. Her mouth just dropped open … I bought almost 1 lb. Just warning you, you will need to get a lot of poppy seed, I know people in the US are not used to using so much.
The seeds will need to be ground as well. I have a vitamix that grinds poppy seeds beautifully. If you don’t have one, no worries! You can also use an electric coffee grinder. Supermarkets do sell canned ground poppy seed mixed with the sweeteners, flavorings, preservatives etc but you will not get the same results with those.
Hungarians are always worrying about cracks in the crust. If you follow my recipe below, you should be fine. However, the tastiest beiglis I have eaten were slightly cracked, like the one on the picture. I chatted with my kids and let the dough rise too long … but everybody commented it was one of the best I have ever made. They wanted to know what I did differently lol … My mom will probably comment on the appearance of my beigli but oh well. So there are some rules on how not to get cracks. For the records here they go …
Crust can crack if
dough had risen in a place that was too warm
the dough was left to rise too long
too much filling or sugar was used
work area was too warm
dough was not pricked on the sides
Let’s look at why our ancestors valued poppy seed so greatly. This plant is native to Western Asia and has been around for thousands of years… perhaps Hungarians had brought it from Asia when they were travelling from their previous place that they used to occupy in Asia. It is considered a significant source of food from carbohydrates, is abundant in vitamin B complex and E, iron, calcium, phosphorus and is rich in fatty acids. It is considered soothing and calming, boosts the immune system, supports brain, bone and heart health and can be helpful in the treatment of certain cancers.
Ancient Chinese Medicine considers it to be sour, neutral in energy and is associated with the Lung, Large Intestine and Kidney meridians. It has a kidney shape and is believed that it is benefial fot the kidneys.
Ayurveda, the ancient healing system of India believes it is beneficial for digestion and nourishes body fluids and the nervous system. Maybe a nice remedy to keep you calm during the holidays! Oh and it is also aphrodisiac!
Ingredientsfor the dough
500 g (4 cups) of organic flour (I used Bob’s Red mill)
25 dkg (18 Tbsp) butter
2 tsp dried yeast
2 large eggs
3-5 Tbsp sugar, regular granulated or powdered
1/2 cup (1dl) of milk
1/8 tsp or pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Ingredients for the filling
30 dkg (2 1/4 cups) poppy seed
3 dl (1 1/8 cup) milk
1 cup of sugar
peel of 1 orange or lemon or 3-5 Tbsp of dried peel
5 Tbsp of flour
1/2 cup of raisins or chunks of plums (you can leave it out if disliked)
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Have all ingredients at room temperature.
Preparing the dough: Get the yeast started in the warm milk (104-108F). This is a temperature that should feel neither hot or cold on your wrist or when you stick your index finger in the solution. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm milk with 1 tsp of sugar, stir and cover for 5 minutes or until yeast comes up to the top. Meanwhile start sifting the pinch of salt and 3 Tbsp sugar into the flour. Then cut butter into the flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture and quickly mix until a ball is formed. Let it rise for 2 hours, cover with a damp cloth.
Preparing the filling. Start preparing the filling right away because it has to cool. I would not make it ahead of time because it can dry out. If you start it right after you finished the dough, it should be fine. Grind the poppy seeds (please see above). Boil the 1 1/8 cups of milk, add the ground poppy seeds, orange peel (for me the more the better, I used 5 Tbsp of orange peel), sugar, flour and raisins. Mix and set it aside to let it cool.
Assembling the rolls. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed shortly until they are smooth. Divide it into 2 bigger or 4 smaller pieces. For me it is too hard to get 4 equal sized balls so I either do 2 or 3 ball. Roll them out into a rectangular shape and spread half, third or quarter of the filling, respectively in about 0.5 cm thickness on the dough leaving about 1 inch from the edges. Please see picture for clarity. Start rolling the longer side not too tight but not loose either. Pinch the two sides so the filling cannot come out on the sides. Repeat with the others. Put the rolls on a lightly buttered cookie sheet so the rolled up edge is on the bottom of the cookie sheet. Do an egg wash with 1 egg and let the rolls rise in a coolish area (60-68 F) for 1 hour. Note the kitchen might be too hot for this step. Then spread 1 egg white on the rolls and cool in the fridge for a half hour. Preheat oven to 375 F. Before I put the rolls into the oven, I do another layer of egg white wash and prick the side on the sides 6-7 times to prevent cracking.
Baking the rolls. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Take out when done or when the surface has a beautiful golden finish. Try to avoid opening the stove door. Wait a good 20-30 minutes before cutting the slices.
It is December now and I am already missing the plums from this summer. Then I happened upon this recipe (source of the recipe) … a dish with pork baked in prune sauce! I really like to prepare meats with fruits and the prunes work nicely with the pork here. Oh and that savory aroma of the prunes cooking with the shallots!!! … I decided that I will be making this recipe for Christmas Eve. I believe it would be perfect for this busy night. It can be marinated ahead of time and then just has to be cooked on the 24th … and after eating this dish I might have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head…
I really like simple meals that have an interesting flavor and this dish does just that. The pork is first marinated in a mustardy sauce and further baked in a savory plum sauce to perfection. The moist pork works nicely with the sweet prunes along with pungent spices and results in a unique sweet and savory flavor. Of course, it needs to be served with some nice wine or grape drink.
I made a few minor changes to the original recipe. I added a little red hot pepper, of course it is optional but for me, some spiciness was missing. I felt that the sweet pork along with the sweet sauce needed a touch of spiciness to balance the dish out. Not sure if it is authentic but this was more to satisfy my personal taste.
Also, I served this dish with brussel sprouts in addition to the potatoes that the recipe already calls for. I served brussel sprouts but any other bitter green leafy vegetable like kale, lettuce would work well. Also, the recipe calls for 2 cups of chicken stock. You can do half white wine and half chicken stock if you wish.
If you can’t find tenderloin or just don’t want to spend so much money, sirloin is a nice alternative. Sirloin, a different part of the pork is not as tender, will require longer cooking time and more cooking liquid. (I cooked it for 15 minutes longer and added an extra 1/4 cup of chicken stock). Honestly, they both taste nice though. Of course, if you want to impress your guests, or just treat yourself to something special, the tenderloin is more superior in flavor so go for the tenderloin!
A few words about the pork. It is sweet and salty. According to Ancient Chinese Medicine, pork is great for the fall and the winter as it is moistening. In fact, pork is moistening for the lungs, kidneys, and the spleen-pancreas. In Europe, it is a popular meat during the cold months especially during Christmas time.
1 pork tenderloin (approx. 1.25 pounds) or sirloin 2 TBSP brown sugar 1 TBSP Dijon mustard 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided 2 cloves of garlic, minced + 4 whole cloves, peeled and slightly smashed 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dry) 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 10 dried plums (prunes), chopped in half 2 smaller shallots or 1 bigger one, peeled and thinly chopped 2 cups chicken or pork broth or 1 cup of chicken/pork stock and 1 cup of white wine 1 TBSP red wine vinegar fresh parsley
Marinade: In a small bowl mix sugar, dijon mustard, 2 tsp olive oil, thyme, sale, pepper and 2 cloves of garlic. Put the mixture on the tenderloin, evenly spreading it all over the pork. You can put the pork in a zip lock bag or a marinating dish with a lid. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190C). Take the pork mixture out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
Prune sauce: In a pan with oven proof handles, gently heat 2 tsp of olive oil, add shallots and stir. Cook until it start becoming soft and you can smell its aroma – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, the chopped prunes and stir … Now if I may, I would like to invite you to stop for a few seconds and smell the aroma of the shallots, the garlic and the prunes, it is amazing … after 1 minute add the chicken stock, vinegar and hot pepper (optional). Cook for 5-10 minutes.
Place the pork in the middle of the pan. Put the pan into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Cook for an additional 20-25 minutes basting 2-3 times or until the meat is 160F.
When meat’s temperature reached 160F, take the pan out of the oven and cover. Let it rest here for 10 minutes before you start slicing them.
Serve sliced with potatoes, brussel sprouts and some wine. Drizzle the sauce on the top.
I don’t think it is an accident that stuffed cabbage is a Christmas dish. You can surely serve it any time but it is the perfect dish for the holidays.
I smile every time I remember how my three year old daughter reacted when she saw stuffed cabbage on the Christmas table and screamed ‘YUCKY’. However, after she tried it she realized how delicious it was. Ever since then she makes sure that it is on the Christmas menu every year.
Stuffed cabbage is a popular winter dish in Hungary even though our ancestors didn’t make it. It is a dish that was inspired by the Turks and we started making it only after the Turkish invasion, in the 1600’s. They called it szárma from the Turkish word sarmak. However, many of us today can’t imagine Christmas without it. My mom made it every year.
I don’t think it is an accident that stuffed cabbage is a Christmas dish. You can surely serve it any time of the year but it is the perfect dish for the holidays. In the old days, families butchered their pigs and the meat was ready to be used by around this time. Also, there weren’t too many vegetables available except for a few like cabbage and onions. Not to mention that the dish can be kept in the cold for a couple of days. In fact, it tastes the best after a few days. This was an important consideration because Christmas went on for days back in the old times and according to traditional customs, women were not allowed to work during the celebrations.
The recipe is not too difficult, though it is a bit time-consuming. Just remember you won’t have to cook for 3 days afterwards! There are many variations of this recipe but this is how I make it. Please feel free to experiment with it.
What you need
1 -2 lb of beef bones (ox tail and beef bone)
2-3 Tbsp of black pepper corn. I like to add a lot of peppercorns because they give a really nice flavor to the dish. I used to add them to the pot with the stuffed cabbage. This is a minor correction to the original recipe because people were complaining that they were biting on the peppercorns regularly when they were eating the cabbages. This way, people can enjoy the the nice flavor but they don’t have to bite on the pepper corns. Of course, you can grind fresh peppercorn on the dish when serving too.
4 bay leaves
turnips, rutabaga (optional)
1 large onion
few cloves of garlic
1 celery stalk or the root
For the cabbage rolls:
high quality oil (lard, sunflower seed oil)
1 1/2 lbs of ground pork (can be half beef)
1 larger onion
1 heaping tsp Hungarian powdered paprika
2 slices of bacon (optional)
2 cloves of garlic
2 lb of saurkraut, drained
1 tsp of salt or more
1/2 cup of canned tomatoes
4 slices thin cut Pork chops (you can prepare separate or in the soup) (optional)
smoked meat like kielbasa, sausages (optional)
few strings of fresh thyme (optional)
1 cup of uncooked rice
1 cup of water to cook the rice in
1-2 heads of large Savoy cabbage or green cabbage or sour cabbage leaves (about 18-20 leaves)
4 garlic cloves,
ground black pepper
2 tsp of Hungarian sweet paprika
hot pepper to taste
To serve: Sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot paprika or Erös Pista to taste
Salt to taste
The day before you make the dish, prepare the meat stock. You just put all the ingredients together, bring to a boil, turn down and slowly cook for 8 hours.
Fill a larger pot with cold water and start boiling it. This will be used to soften the leaves. Omit if you have sour cabbage leaves.
Cook the rice in the water. Just add enough water so it can cook but will not get soft. You are pre-cooking the rice here, it will continue cooking in the stuffing.
While the rice is cooking, start preparing the base of the dish. Sauté some onion in some oil, add bacon if you desire and cook for 5-10 minute or until the onion looks nicely transulant and the bacon is crisp. Add paprika, stir and add a little cold liquid (have it ready) and stir. Add 1 lb of the sour kraut and mix. I also like to add some meat, sausages to the dish. It is especially nice to add some smoked meat.
Prepare the stuffing. Mix all ingredients (the half cooked rice, sautéed onion, paprika, black pepper, garlic cloves, salt, marjoram, eggs and the meat) together.
Take the leaves off the cabbage gently one by one. Put the leaves in the boiling water (from step 2) for 1 minute or until they are soft.
Fill the cabbage leaves in the middle with about 1 heaping tablespoon of stuffing or more if leaf is bigger and fold them on all four sides so the stuffing is tucked inside the leaves nicely. Be careful you don’t fold them too tight because the mixture will expand a little. You can close the leaves with a toothpick if you want but it is really not necessary. This may sound like a difficult task but really what you do here is you tuck the filling inside the leaves and fold each side onto the stuffing so it is nested inside the leaves.
You can just lay the stuffed leaves on the bottom of the pot one by one next to each other pot, place the rest of the sour-kraut on top of the stuffed cabbage.
Pour the meat stock that you made the day before into the pot. Bring the whole dish to a boil and turn down and cook on very low heat slowly for 1 ½ hours.
Meanwhile you can prepare the pork chops. I like to serve some meat on the side so people who like a lot of meat or prefer not to have the stuffed cabbage can have some meat. Brown pork chops on both sides and a little white wine, bay leaves, and spices. Cook for 1 hour.
When done, take cabbages out one by one and place them on a serving plate. Then place the sour kraut mixture on the top and pour liquid over the dish. Serve the sour cream on top. Grind some fresh black pepper and add hot paprika to taste.