Sunday, 20 January 2013

"Gołabki" - stuffed cabbage

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)
1 egg
100 g rice
salt, pepper, paprika
1 stock cube  + water 
tomato puree

Mince the meat, season with spices and mix with the egg. Boil the rice and mix with the meat mixture.
Boil water in a pan big enough to fit the cabbage in. When the water boils put the cabbage in and boil for a few minutes. Take the cabbage out and gently peel off the leaves - be careful not to tear them as you do so. The first few layers of leaves should come off fairly easily, once they get harder to peel, place the cabbage into the pan with boiling water for another couple of minutes and continue peeling the leaves.

On each leaf place a bit of meat mixture (the amount depends on the size of each leaf)fold the sides of the leaf inside, on top of the meat, and roll it into a tube. Do the same with the rest of the leaves until you use up all 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.

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