I have for you today a simple but ridiculously tasty dish that has become a firm favourite in this house, not least because it requires so little effort to make.
The combination of buttery, peppery, al-dente greens with buttery, peppery, differently-al-dente noodles is, as I have already mentioned, ridiculously tasty. Bonus is that it reheats well with a zap in the microwave, and so the initial chore of all the chopping is offset with easy side dishes/meain meals for several days.
It is based on the Eastern European dish Haluski. This version has been tweaked from the original and traditional method of making which was, if anything, even easier to prepare, involving just one pot to bring it all together. The original has everything fried in butter – delicious! – but a bit much for me, so I’ve opted for steaming the cabbage (to keep the glorious colour), cooking the noodles separately, and then just using a pan to mix.
This version is vegetarian, but it can easily be embellished into a simple main meal – although I can happily eat this as a meal just as is – with the addition of some protein: bits of bacon/ham seems to be the most popular, but chopped, cooked chicken, chorizo, hardboiled eggs are also simple to stir through the pan just before serving.
I have used white cabbage, savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts (because I love them) to add interest in both colour and texture, although using just one is fine. The noodles are actually fresh pasta ribbons: again, any shape is fine, and on reflection, smaller pasta shapes would make the dish easier to serve/eat.
Aside from my tweaks above, there seem to be a couple of other ‘rules’ when it comes to Haluski, which I can also vouch for with this version, viz.
- Proportionally, have more cabbage than noodles.
- When coating the greens with butter, have them ‘catch’ a little (brown at the edges) which will give a fantastic flavour boost to the dish.
- Season generously with lots of black pepper.
Deviate from these at your peril!
Before we get to the recipe, a word or two about cooking cabbage – and indeed all brassicas.
- Cook/steam for no longer than 4 minutes.
Yes, I agree, this does seem a ridiculously short amount of time, but it is genuinely all you need. Any longer, and you’re heading into the realms of school-dinner-boiled-cabbage-funk aroma that we all know, to our horror. The greens end up cooked, with a pleasant texture on the teeth, and retain their glorious colour fantastically well.
Steaming is my preference, not only for the brightness of colour it is possible to retain, but it also prevents the vegetables from becoming waterlogged. Simply cut out any hard stalks (especially from kale, cavolo nero, Savoy) and shred the leaves finely, and halve or even quarter brussel sprouts.
Cabbage and Noodles
This is, essentially, a quantity-free recipe. Precise measurements are not required, and it will be all the more delicious – and quicker – without them.
fresh egg noodles or egg pasta
- Peel and chop the onions. You casn do this by hand and make the onion pieces similar in size to the greens, or you can thrown them into a food processor and blitz to a mush that will blend in with the rest of the ingredients. Both are fine.
- Melt some butter in a large pan (because everything with end up being added to this pan) and fry the onions until softened and golden, but not crisp. Be generous with the butter, but don’t go overboard (some especially rich recipes I’ve read end up using 250g or more) – about 50g is plenty.
- Prepare the greens by removing any hard stalks and shredding the leaves finely. Steam for 4 minutes and drain through a sieve.
- Cook the noodles in boiling water according to instructions and drain through a sieve.
- When the greens have drained, tip them into the butter and onions and toss gently to coat.
- When the greens are evenly coated with the buttery onion mixture, add in the noodles and combine. Add more butter to taste. You want everything nicely coated, but not swimming in butter.
- Season generously with black pepper and a little salt.
- Serve at once.
This week’s recipe is another great comfort food and snack item that originates in eastern Europe, and migrated from Russia, through Germany and travelled with the food traditions of German immigrants to North America. Variations are also known as Fleischkuche, Runza’s, Kraut Pirok and Cabbage Burger.
A soft, white bread dough is stuffed with a mixture of seasoned beef mince, onion and cabbage – and that’s it. You’re thinking it sounds a bit plain and dull? Yes, me too when I first read about these, but reading the reviews of these buns on recipe sites and blogs, you discover that these simple stuffed rolls have a huge fan base out there – so much so that they are made commercially in the US. The mix of meat, onions and cabbage is moist and savoury and comforting. Sometimes the most flavourful things come from the simplest of ingredients.
These rolls are best served warm, and served with salad they can be a simple and tasty lunch. Alternatively, they also freeze well – great for grab-and-go weekday lunches, they will have defrosted by lunchtime can be warmed up either in an oven or microwave.
Although the basic recipe is delicious, you can also add a little extra flavourings to your taste. The most popular variation includes a little sauerkraut with the cabbage: I personally wasn’t keen, but then I only had shop-bought sauerkraut to try it with. Home-made sauerkraut is probably much better. The second variation I tried was to add a little cheese. I went with some grated Grana Padano (a strong Italian cheese similar to Parmesan, but much cheaper) for maximum flavour without adding too much bulk to the filling. I really liked this little addition, but please do try the original mixture too – it really is delicious.
You can use any cabbage, but I like both the colour and texture of the Savoy cabbage – it holds its colour really well and makes the filling look fresh and juicy as well as taste that way.
Bierocks – Makes 12
500g strong white flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
100ml whole milk
100ml boiling water
500g lean beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small Savoy cabbage, finely shred
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
grated Grana Padano cheese (optional)
- Make the bread dough:
- Put the flour, yeast, egg, salt and sugar into a bowl.
- Add the boiling water to the milk and add gradually to the mixture until it comes together into a soft dough. You may need more liquid, depending on the moisture in the flour and egg.
- Knead the mixture for ten minutes, cover and set aside to rise for an hour.
- Make the filling.
- Heat a non-stick saucepan over a medium high heat and crumble in the meat. No need to have any oil, even lean mince has a certain amount of fat in it which will come out as the meat cooks.
- Stir the meat around until it is browned and shiny.
- Add the onion and continue stirring while the onion softens.
- Finally add in the cabbage and cook until the cabbage has softened – probably no more than 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- When the dough is risen, tip out and pat down.
- Divide dough into pieces weighing 75-80g.
- Roll dough out into a 15cm square.
- Put a measure of the cooled filling into the middle of the dough. I use an 80ml measuring cup.
- Add 1 teaspoon of the grated cheese, if using.
- Bring the corners of the dough together and pinch along the edges to seal in the filling. What you will end up with looks like the back of an envelope.
- Turn the buns over and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Dust the buns with flour and set aside to rise for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
- Remove the buns from the oven and immediately cover the baking sheet with some tea-towels. This will trap the heat and create steam, which will soften the crust of the buns.
- Eat warm.