Monday, 29 July 2013

Finnish baked cabbage casserole

I am finally online again! A whole week without any access to the Internet. You know you are out in the sticks when there is no 3G... But now New Home is finally online and I can get back to blogging. Although I can't say I had much time to miss the Interwebs, every evening has been so full of unpacking, organising, re-organising and all the other stuff that is needed to get settled in the new place. And admittedly I do spend quite a bit of time just floating around, walking from room to room and around the garden, talking to the trees (as instructed by the previous owners) and marvelling at the garden. I'm still convinced that any day now someone will show up at the door and tell me that I have no right to live here, that it has all been a mistake, the money we paid wasn't good or the bank has withdrawn the mortgage. Every time we pull up to the driveway and I see the house I still cannot believe I actually live here. For good. No-one can make me leave. Me and the Culinary Consultant tell each other every day that we are the luckiest people in the world. But there is so much to do. We have no curtains, hardly any furniture, the Batchelor pad still has several car-loads of stuff in it, not to even mention all the painting and cleaning that needs to be done before it can be let. But we are trying to do a little bit every day, it's just that I would much rather be at home trying to come up with new and exciting ways of using up all the tomatoes from the greenhouse instead of scrubbing walls. But there is a season for everything.
We were supposed to have our first BBQ on Friday. I have said from the start that the first thing I want us to buy for the garden is a BBQ, everything else can wait (although we do have a few pieces of garden furniture as well). So the Culinary Consultant set to putting together the thousand pieces that were supposed to become a BBQ. Which it in fact did. However, after I had already prepared some potato salad and cole slaw, with our chicken, burgers and sausages waiting in the fridge, we realised the firelighters were nowhere to be found, and probably still back at the old place. So we had to admit defeat and pop the burgers and sausages in the oven instead. When we finally had food in front of us I can't say we particularly cared about the fact that it wasn't proper BBQ, we were so hungry. However, this back story about the cole slaw explains why I have loads of cabbage in the fridge, which needed to be used up. So I made kaalilaatikko, a Finnish oven baked cabbage casserole. The recipe is from Pirkka, a very popular website in Finland for recipes. 

Cabbage casserole (kaalilaatikko, serves 5-6):
1 kg (approximately) cabbage (usually white, I used a mix of about 3/4 white and 1/4 red because that was what I happened to have)
2 onions
500 ml (2 cups) water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
500 g organic mince
2 tsp marjoram
black pepper to taste
3 tbsp syrup (Finnish syrup is dark, and I substitute by 2 tbsp golden syrup and 1 tbsp treacle)
50 ml (about 1/4 cup) risotto rice
2-3 tbsp butter
Before going into the oven
The howto:
Chop the cabbage and onions. Bring water to a boil, add cabbage, onion and salt. Let cook for half an hour. Meanwhile cook the mince in a frying pan in the olive oil. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (392 F). When cabbage has cooked for half an hour, take it off the heat (don't drain), add spices, syrup and meat and mix. Butter an oven proof dish (I didn't and had no problem getting the food out anyways) and pour rice on the bottom. Spread cabbage and meat mixture (along with the liquid in the pan) on the rice in an even layer, and add a few knobs of butter on top. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for about 50 minutes. Serve with lingonberry jam.
The verdict:
This is a really cheap and relatively quick and easy meal to make. I pre-pack it into single servings to take with me as lunch to work, or freeze as single servings. I like how the cabbage turns sweet when baked in the oven, obviously aided by the syrup. I am used to a kaalilaatikko having a bit more rice than this recipe, but I guess in times of cutting carbs it is sensible choice. It tasted pretty much just as I remembered. I didn't use to like cabbage foods when I was a kid (although not sure any children do) but now I really like it. Be it cole slaw or casserole, it is really tasty.

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