Cabbage rolls are a very classical German recipe. But I’ve grown up in Berlin and if somebody asks me for the most typical food, I usually answer “get a Kebab”. I couldn’t tell you where to find a restaurant with traditional German food and actually think these restaurants have experienced a boom only since tourism has increased so much. In exchange, I could easily tell you though where to find different Vietnamese, Lebanese, Italian, Spanish, Korean or Thai places, vegetarian restaurants, bagel places etc. German food is just not very typical in Berlin and neither it was in my family. At my grandparents, who own a farm, the food was more traditional. The truth is, I’m almost sure I’ve had cabbage rolls at some point, but I can’t really remember it. Still, I’ve been thinking about making a vegetarian version of the recipe for some time, and when my csa (community supported agriculture)-basket contained a big savoy cabbage this week, and Sebastián who doesn’t like cabbage was away travelling, I knew this was the moment.
In comparison to normal green cabbage, the savoy cabbage has more texture and an appealing dark green color. The outer leaves serve as wrappers and I used the remaining cabbage as part of the filling, together with mashed potatoes and mushroom puree. The rolls are first roasted and then cooked a little bit more covered in cashew cream and sprinkled with scallion and toasted almonds for serving. The outcome is an incredible tasty vegan dish with a great texture. A friend came by for dinner and after having some fun rolling the little packages together, she said it tasted like meat and cream and very decadent, but much better, and additionally all the ingredients are actually healthy. She took 2 leftover rolls home, not very sure if she should share them with her boyfriend. The next day I asked her if she was able to let him taste them, and she told me they got addicted and were just preparing some on their own!
There are certain food items that attract me, but I don’t really know what to do with them and I usually try not to buy them as I know that there is a big risk of not using them and watching them get spoilt in the end. Still, in my weak moments, before I fully realize, these things have somehow ended up in my basket and I find myself carrying them home. If you sometimes buy a beautiful cabbage, but then don’t know what to do with it… well, you got a great solution now. If you don’t usually buy cabbage, go out and get one.
- 1 medium sized Savoy Cabbage
- 6 medium sized potatoes (around 1kg/2Ibs)
- 4 cups of sliced fresh mushrooms (around 1/2kg/1Ib), portabella, porcini, oyster mushrooms etc. or a mix
- 2 onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 cup cashews soaked for at least a couple of hours or overnight
- 1 cup water
- 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme
- Splash of white wine
- 1/4 cup raw almonds
- 1 scallion
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
You’ll have to soak the cashews ahead, simply covering them generously with filtered water. Once the cashews are soaked, you’re ready to go: cover the potatoes in water and put them to boil. Cook until soft, take them out of the water, peel and use a potato press or fork to mash them. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste) and combine. Now put water to boil in a pot large enough for the savoy cabbage. Stick a fork firmly into the cabbage stump. Lower the cabbage into the boiling water (to soften the leaves) and carefully cut off leave by leave and reserve them on a plate. You will need the 12 outmost leaves for wrapping, the rest will be used for the filling.
Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel and cut off the bottom slice of the stem. Coarsely chop them. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan, add garlic, mushrooms, thyme and pepper to taste. Add a splash of white wine and some salt. Keep sautéeing at a high temperature until the liquid disappears and the mushrooms get browned. Take them out of the pan and put them aside. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan and lower the temperature. Cut and slice an onion and sautée until transparent. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the inner cabbage leaves (the ones that are too small to fill), and add them to the onion. Add cumin, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Now use an immersion blender (or food processor) to puree the mushrooms (reserve a few as topping!) and the cabbage separately (it doesn’t have to get completely smooth, a few chunks are good).
The time for rolling has come. Take a cabbage leaf, cut out the hard stump part, put some mashed potato, mushroom and cabbage puree in the middle (on top of each other), fold in the sides, and roll the leave. Use some sewing thread to tie them up. Repeat the process until you have 12 rolls.
Prepare the cashew cream by rinsing the soaked cashews and putting them in a high speed blender together with the water. Blend until homogenous. Cashew cream is amazing, the cashews completely dissolve and you’re left with a white, very creamy liquid that closely resembles normal dairy cream, but has a slightly nuttier taste. Put the almonds into a pan and toast slowly until they get browned. Chop them coarsely. Also chop the scallion.
Slice the remaining onion. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan and put the onion slices into it. Once they are transparent, add the rolls. Turn them around when they are roasted on one side. Once the cabbage looks slightly browned and a little crispy, add the cashew cream, another splash of white wine, salt and black pepper. Once the cashew cream is hot (it thickens quickly, if you feel it gets too thick, add some water), serve the rolls, sprinkled with the toasted almonds, the reserved mushrooms and scallion.