March and April are perhaps the two most difficult months when it comes to eating healthily. The supplies in the pantry, that we laboriously prepared in the summer – the jams, the pickles and jars of fruit butter – are running low, and the fresh, seasonal vegetables are still only a dream. Early spring is for two things: growing your herbs and sprouts and clearing out the cupboards.
I made it a tradition that I plan my meals around the foods that I already have in the kitchen cupboards. Sounds pretty obvious, sure, but how many times did you find yourself in the supermarket, not exactly sure if you have a box of rice/pasta/lentils at home, and bought it just in case – hence rendering it to be another item of the never-used dried foods in the dark corner of the kitchen?
So reckoning first, shopping second. And always, always with a list. And never on an empty stomach. I made it a point recently to start my food waste control from prevention: if I won’t buy unnecessary stuff, I won’t waste it. Using up whatever’s already at home, planning cooking in a way that ensures the use of the pulses, grains and flours that lurk from the dark corners of the kitchen cupboards and shopping for only foods we’ll use and not hoard – are the ways forward.
The recipe below is my Mum’s, a master of making something delicious out of whatever she currently has at home. Gołąbki, as that’s how cabbage rolls are called in Poland, are perfect comfort food for early spring: the green of the cabbage invokes freshness we all so crave at this time of the year, and the earthy, steaming hot filling gives comfort, much sought after on still-chilly early spring evenings.
There are many versions of gołąbki in Poland (and many versions of cabbage/leafy rolls in the world), yet this one is by far my favourite. The filling consists of rice and/or kasha, onion, forest mushrooms (that my family picks and dries since I can remember), and a bit of salt and pepper. Served hot with either creamy mushroom sauce or refreshing tomato one, they made my family happy times over.
Wild Mushroom and Rice Cabbage Rolls
for cabbage rolls
1 Savoy cabbage
1 cup rice
1 cup barley groats (kasha)
2 handfuls dried forest mushrooms
oil for frying
for the mushroom sauce
handful of dried forest mushrooms or 200g button mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
handful of parsley
oil for frying
for the tomato sauce
1 tin of tomatoes
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
a branch of rosemary or/and thyme
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Soak the mushrooms in warm water. Set aside for at least 30-45 minutes.
2. Boil a big pot of water. When boiling, add a teaspoon of salt and start adding cabbage leaves, one by one, cooking each for about 2 minutes. Once blanched, remove the leaves into a bowl filled with iced water, and then colander onto a colander (cold water will stop the leaves from cooking and softening further). Repeat with all the cabbage leaves.
3. Strain the mushrooms (you can reserve the water for the sauce). Chop the onion finely and fry it with oil. Add chopped forest mushroom and fry until cooked. Set aside to cool.
4. Measure 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of barley groats, add to the sieve and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
5. Boil 3 and 1/2 cup of water. When boiling, add a good pinch of salt and rice with barley groats. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pot from the heat, wrap up in blankets (pot still with a lid tightly on), cover with extra pillow or a blanket and set aside to steam. This will take somewhere from 20-30 minutes.
6. Chop fried onion and mushrooms, and mix with steamed rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some freshly chopped parsley, for an extra flavour kick.
7. Prepare a deep baking dish and grease it with butter.
9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
9. Take one cooked cabbage leaf, place about 2tbsp of ready filling in the middle. Fold the sides of the leaf, and roll the leaf up. Place ready cabbage roll on the bottom of pre-greased baking dish, seal down. repeat with all the cabbage leaves.
10. Add about 1/4 cup of water and 1tbsp of butter into the dish with cabbage rolls and place them in the preheated oven for about half an hour. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
11. Serve gołąbki hot, with a good ladle of either mushroom or tomato sauce. Enjoy!
1. Fry pre-soaked forest mushrooms or chopped button mushrooms with chopped onion and oil.
2. When cooked, add sour cream, a bit of water, salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add flour mixed with a bit of water (beware of the lumps), and cook for another 2 minutes. Finish up with some freshly chopped parsley.
1. Gently fry chopped onion and garlic with olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes (fresh or from the tin), salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, and cook for 10-15 minutes on low heat.
2. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. Add a drop of water if the sauce is too thick. Add chopped herbs, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.