Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls- and Happy New Year!

Hello! I've been away for a while - moved house and then the whole Christmas/New Year thing happened, and now here we are nearly half way through January eek! I hope you all had a great festive period and it was suitably merry.

So I'm back, and cooking from my brand new kitchen with my amazing pull out larder to house all my spices and a spinny cupboard for my pans. Santa was also very kind over Christmas so I have lots of lovely new gizmos and gadgets to add to my ever increasing collection of kitchen paraphernalia. (Who knew you could get so excited about a pepper grinder?!)

I've also started the new year, as I'm sure many have, with a vow to detox after an indulgent couple of weeks full of booze and cake. I've had a week of drinking lemon and cucumber water, eating lots of berries and grapefruit and spinach, and I do feel a lot better for it. And I've given up alcohol for January, which is proving tricky- seems like most social occasions involve drinking in some way, more afternoon teas and brunches needed I think.

Just to make life extra hard for myself I have also decided to cut wheat and dairy (not eggs) out of my diet as well. This is actually for health reasons though, as I have just discovered, after years of umming and ahhing by different doctors, that I do in fact have asthma, eczema and related allergies (they are all linked). After doing some research and talking to a couple of friends, I found that dairy and wheat can be triggers for these things, so I thought I would have a go at cutting then out of my diet and see if I noticed any effect.

As I think I've mentioned once or twice on this blog before, I am a big fan of pasta. Big fan. And cheese comes a pretty close second. They're pretty much my favourite things ever. So this is going to be hard. But if it makes me feel better and stops the wheezing, I think it's a fair sacrifice to make. So we'll see how we get on.

So I hope that throughout this journey I can provide you with some delicious, nutritious dairy and wheat free recipes to try. I am having to rethink a lot of my cooking and restock my pantry/fridge with various substitutes- but I'm always up for a challenge! If any of you readers have any tips or experience of doing an elimination diet like this I would love to hear your stories!

So this week's recipe is vegan stuffed cabbage rolls. Not knowing quite what to do with our huge "Tundra cabbage" other than bubble and squeak, I looked around online and saw quite a few recipes for this Middle Eastern/Greek dish and decided to have a go at my own. I only made enough for two people, so two rolls each, which wasn't too much trouble, but I could imagine the blanching and rolling of leaves could be a bit of a hassle if making for large numbers so you might want to have a co-chef and make sure you leave plenty of time for this stage.

Don't be put off though, as they're absolutely delicious and a lovely way of doing something different with that oft neglected cabbage!

You could definitely have a play around with different spices & herbs in the rice/lentil mix according to your favourite flavours. I kind of just went with what I fancied at the time, and it was a bit of a random mix, but it worked! Next time I might try some more Moroccan-y type spices like ras-el-hanout and some fresh coriander to see how that works.

I think I would also add something to give the filling a bit of crunch next time too, such as pine nuts, walnuts, or sunflowers seeds.

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
(Serves 2)

For the filling
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
100g brown/green lentils
100g brown rice
1 litre of stock
large handful parsley
juice of 1 lemon

4 large cabbage leaves (peel each carefully off the cabbage making sure it does not rip or have holes)

For the sauce
1/2 tin of tomatoes
glug of red wine
pinch of sugar
bay leaf
salt and pepper

Saute the chopped onion, garlic and chilli in a glug of olive oil until starting to soften. Add spices and fry for a few more minutes.

Add the lentils, rice and stock, season and simmer for about 25 minutes, until cooked. Take off the heat and add a generous amount of lemon juice and parsley. Mix well.

While the rice mixture is cooking, blanch the cabbage leaves. Place leaves in a pan of boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and rinse immediately under cold water.

To make the tomato sauce, simply mix all ingredients together in a bowl. (You do not need to cook it at this stage as it will be going in the oven.)

Once your cabbage leaves and rice mixture are ready, place a large tablespoonful of the mixture into the middle of each cabbage leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf inwards and roll the rest of the leaf from the top to the bottom (you should have the base of the leaf on the outside).

Place all rolls tightly in an ovenproof dish, cover with tomato sauce and bake for about 30 minutes.

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