As I brace myself for the first Irish winter of my life, I’m realizing I truly have no clue what it’s like to try and manage the day-to-day in below-zero temps. I grew up in Los Angeles, the land of eternal sunshine and palm trees, where as kids we actually prayed for rain on Christmas Day so it would feel more “Christmas-y.” Yes, I know you’re laughing.
My Irish friends are quick with their warnings: “The pipes will freeze!” “Cars will be slipping all over the road!” “The trains will shut down!” Needless to say, they aren’t helping. So I am expecting the worst, but hoping for the best, and will be making lots of comforting, winter dishes to warm my soul and keep me optimistic through what will certainly be the coldest days of my life so far!
Comforting Stuffed Cabbage
8 large cabbage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
½ of a cooked potato, mashed
230 grams of lean ground beef
80 grams of finely grated Parmesan cheese (use a microplane; if using store-grated use only ½ cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 180 C. Fill a large soup pot with water and put over high heat until boiling. Place the cabbage leaves in the boiling water, and cook until soft – about 10 minutes. Remove from the water and place on a baking sheet to cool. Once cool enough to touch, run a sharp paring knife along the surface of the stems if they are too thick (some cabbage stems are so thick they won’t soften enough even after cooking). The point here is to make the stem part of the leaf about the same thickness as the rest of the leaf, so you can roll it easier. Set aside.
In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the bell pepper and onion for about 4-5 minutes, and then add the garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and let cool for a few minutes. Add in the chives, basil, rosemary and mashed potato and mix. Then add the ground beef, egg and Parmesan and mix together using your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble: Take a small amount of the meat mixture and form it into rectangular meatball. Place the meatball at the base of a cabbage leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaf and roll. Place the roll, seam side down, into a casserole dish. After all the rolls are in the dish, top with the marinara sauce. Make sure the cabbage is well covered by the marinara sauce or the tops will burn. Bake for one hour. Serve hot!
Clare Kleinedler is an American freelance journalist living in Ireland. She writes about her transition from life in Los Angeles to small-town Ireland on her food and culture blog, An American in Ireland. Twitter: @clarekleinedler