I guess each Polish child, at some point, used to believe that "gołąbki" (the diminutive of Polish word for "pigeons") are made of pigeon meat. Whereas to some it may be a perfectly logical assumption, pigeon meat is not very popular in Poland, and the idea seems rather amusing to the majority of people. Quite frankly, the thought of eating the meat of world's most scuzzy creature never ceases to give me the creeps.
As a child, though, I deeply believed that it was pigeon meat I got served stuffed inside the cabbage leaves. I seem to recall my grandmother fostering that belief, as my childhood credulity was the source of infinite joy to her. I don't quite remember when I found out about the real origin of one of my favourite dishes, but certainly was quite relieved by the truth.
The dish is made of mince - traditionally mixed pork and beef, though minced pork shoulder will certainly suffice. Although it may seem like a complicated dish, it really is straightforward, and relatively fool-proof ;-P It doesn't take more than half an hour to prepare (including boiling rice, blanching the cabbage and mincing meat) and about an hour to stew. Sadly, it is one of those dishes that taste incomparably better than they look, and it's rather hard to do a lot in the way of presentation.
500 g minced meat (mixed pork and beef, or pork only)
100 g rice
salt, pepper, paprika
1 stock cube + water
Mince the meat, season with spices and mix with the egg. Boil the rice and mix with the meat mixture.
Put the "gołąbki" into a large pan, they should be placed really close to each other, put as many in as you can cram. Once you've covered the bottom, place the rest of the "gołąbki" on top of the first layer, and finally put spare cabbage leaves on top.
Dilute the stock cube and pour into the pan. Cook for about 1 hour or 1,5 hour on medium heat, with the lid on. About 30 minutes before the end of cooking add tomato puree, salt and pepper.
Serve with boiled potatoes or mashed potato, and the tomato sauce made with the "gołąbki". When they cool down, store them in the fridge, according to some people they are best after a few days. Though, do make sure they are kept in an air-tight container, as the smell of the cold cooked cabbage is not one of the nicest ones.