A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of judging at the Global Cheese Awards, situated in Somerset, the Cheddar heartlands. It was pretty intimidating, judging alongside people who had worked in the dairy industry for decades, I can tell you, but I don’t think I made too bigger fool of myself. Whilst I was there, I had the pleasure of bumping into some of the Barber family, who I’ve visited and written about before (here and here). They very kindly sent me on my way with a bumper bag of Cheddar, which gave me the perfect excuse to try out this recipe, which has been on my mind for a while.
I first came across stuffed cabbage leaves when I was helping my Italian friend with her supper club. Different European countries fill them with everything from meat to rind-washed cheese but here I thought I would take advantage of bumper crops of potatoes and onions from the allotment, my Cheddar windfall and some smoked bacon (although you could omit this, if meat’s not your thing). It’s a good option for friends who can’t eat gluten or wheat too.
1 Savoy cabbage
500g potatoes, scrubbed and boiled until tender and cut into small chunks (5-10mm)
1 onion, chopped
3 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
130g Cheddar cheese, grated (I used Barber’s 1833)
2 tbsp. olive oil
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato puree
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan and fry half of the chopped onions until soft. Add the tomatoes, puree and thyme leaves and simmer until you have a thick sauce. Season.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200c/180c/Gas mark 6. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and add the rest of the onions and the chopped bacon. Fry for around five minutes and then add the potatoes. Season well, put a lid on and cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn’t stick.
Take the leaves off the cabbage, discard the tough outer ones and put aside the larger leaves. With a sharp knife, cut out the thickest part of the stem near the base. Blanch each leaf in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until soft (but not for too much longer or they will split).
When the potatoes, onion and bacon are cooked, add the grated cheese and a good grating of nutmeg. Check for seasoning. Place a generous spoonful of the mixture in the centre of each blanched cabbage leaf.
Roll the leaf up around the mixture, bringing in the sides to make a parcel. Pour the tomato sauce into a large casserole dish and place the cabbage parcels on top of the sauce, squidging them down well.
Put a lid on the casserole and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot.