Monday, September 21, 2015

Swedish Cabbage Pudding (Kålpudding)

The other day, I was was at the absolutely lovely Ulriksdal slottsträdgården which is a huge kitchen garden where you can pick your own vegetables and herbs, as well as apples and berries.  As well as the gardens, they have a beautiful set of greenhouses where they sell plants and garden accesseries. Last but certainly not least, they have a great cafe where they have a vegetarian brunch which is cooked with the vegetables they grow in their own garden.  It is a very happy place.  I had my eye on some beautiful artichokes but they were all gone!  So, I settled for some corn and a beautiful cabbage.

With the weather here in Stockholm becoming colder and the rains starting, classic Swedish dishes start sounding very tempting.  So, I used my cabbage in a classic, very-old fashioned dish, Kålpudding. If you are a fan of cabbage rolls, then you will have an idea of how this tastes, since it is basically like a big huge cabbage roll.

In Sweden, cabbage rolls are called kåldolmar, after the Turkish dolmar using grape leaves.  The earliest Swedish recipe for dolmar is in a famous cookbook by Cajsa Warg in 1765 version, which I just happened to receive a few weeks ago in a suprise gift from my husband.  I really love kåldolmar, but it is a lot of work making all those little bundles, so imagine my joy when I came across this recipe from my favorite Leif Mannerström in "The Art of Home Cooking."

Kålpudding eptimizes what I love about Swedish cooking; taking humble ingredients, in this case mainly cabbage, potato and minced meat and turning it into something delicious.  As is often the case with these old-fashioned recipes, cooking with love can be time consuming.  So, while there is nothing difficult about this recipe, preparing the cabbage is time consuming.  But still, puttering around in the kitchen for an hour or two on a weekend is a small price to pay for deliciousness.

Here is my recipe, slightly adapted from Mannerströms:

Serves 4 to 6 persons

800 grams to 1 kilo of mixed beef and pork ground meat (blandfärs)
1cabbage head (white or Savoy)
1 large onion
1 medium sized boiled potato
2 dl milk
1 dl dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs
6 tablespoons soysauce
2 tablespoons syrup (ljus sirap, light corn syrup, or golden syrup)
2 tablespoons concentrated veal stock (kalvfond)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
butter for frying and garnishing
salt and pepper to taste

First put a big pot of water to boil that will fit your cabbage.  Core the cabbage by taking a narrow knife and carving out the car at the bottom.  Some of the outer leaves will fall out as you do this, and that is fine.  Add some salt to your boiling water and put in the cabbage head, including the outer leaves.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes (closer to 15 if it is a white cabbage) until the cabbage has softened.  (If you do not have a leftover cooked potato, then you can add a peeled potato to the water.  Depending on the size, it may take about 20 minutes to cook) Take out the cabbage and let it drain and cool slightly. Remove each leaf carefully and cut out the hard central core.  Set the leaves aside, saving the core bit and the tiny leaves at the center.
Coring the cabbage.  It is not a precise art.

After boiling, separate each leaf, and cut out the thickest part of the vein.

A nice pile of leaves when you are done.
In a large bowl, put in the boiled potato and mash it with a fork.Add the breadcrumbs and the milk.  Stir and set aside to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb the milk.
Not very pretty but it will taste good.
Chop your onion finely and chop up the leftover cabbage bits.  Fry the onion and the cabbage in a blob of butter until it is soft and the mixture is just starting to get some color.
Onion and leftover cabbage bits frying.
In your bowl with the breadcrumb mixture, add the meat, the soysauce, the kalvfond, the syrup, the two eggs, and the onion mixture.  Add a generous grinding of pepper. Mix it well with a spoon.  In the frying pan, take a small blob of the meat mixture, fry it up and taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Mixing the meat mixture with all the ingredients.
Get out a springform pan, if you want it to look elegant.  Otherwise you can use any kind of caserole dish.

In the frying pan, add a blob more butter.  Fry each cabbage leaf quickly on both sides.  They are done when they just start to wilt a bit more and get a tiny bit of color.  This is a fiddly job and takes a bit of time to fry all the leaves, but don't skip this step.  If you don't do it, the cabbage will not cook sufficiently and you will have hard cabbage not melt-in-your-mouth cabbage.
Fry each cabbage leaf on both sides until there is a slight big of color.
Put a layer of cabbage leaves at the bottom of your baking dish, roughly a third of the leaves.  Add half of the meat mixture and smooth it down, pressing it to make sure it is level and covering the whole dish.  Put in another layer of cabbage leaves and then the rest of the meat.  Put in a final layer of cabbage, saving some nice large leaves for the top.  Smear a bit of butter on the top and give it a nice grinding of pepper.  Then sprinkle some brown sugar on top. This may feel strange, but believe me that the sweetness goes beautifully with the cabbage.
Add the cabbage and meat in layers.

Ready to cook after a smear of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Put in the oven at 200 degrees C (400F) and cook for about 40 to 45 minutes in the lower half of the oven.  If you are using the springform pan, set it in another pan, just in case some of the juices leak out.  Check the pudding half way through to make sure that it is not burning on the top since the sugar will carmelize.  If you feel it is browning too fast on the top, you can put a piece of foil over it. It should be beautifully browned on top from the carmelized sugar.
The finished pudding! It looks a bit funny because I had some dark green leaves mixed with some light yellow leaves.
Let it sit for 10 minutes or so, and then remove the rim and serve it in wedges, hot.  Traditionally, Swedes would serve lingon jam with it and boiled potatoes.

This dish can be made in advance and then re-heated before serving.
Eat it with lingon if you are Swedish!

1 comment:

Lauren Adams said...

I made the NYT version of this a couple of weeks ago, and couldn't believe how satisfying it was with mashed potatoes and peas. Though I might always have to eat it by myself, I'll be eating it a lot in the future.