Another of my backlog of recipes, and although the picture shows a vegetarian version, it is very easy to add a little something-something if plant-based eating isn’t your thing.
I found inspiration for this recipe in a French recipe book I picked up on holiday. It was for a Charlotte de Chou Farci – a variation of the classic French recipe for cabbage stuffed with sausagemeat – but it was rather overly meaty in my opinion, so I set about adapting it to something lighter. The inclusion of parsley is such a bright flavour, it seemed a bit of a waste to weigh it down with too much protein.
The resulting recipe can be easily tweaked to whatever takes your fancy, or you have to hand. The most important criteria to bear in mind is moisture. The moisture content of this recipe is your friend right up until the point where it causes the whole thing to collapse when turned out. The ingredients are held together with a combination of cooked egg and melted cheese, so if you do decide to add to the ingredients, they must have little or no excess moisture, otherwise your charlotte won’t stand proud. Luckily, you can always have the backup plan of adding an extra egg, if you’re at all unsure.
I also experimented with various leafy green vegetables. My notes were as follows:
- Savoy Cabbage – Perfect for a bright green exterior, which holds its shape well.
- Cavolo Nero – Also excellent for holding its shape, the dark green textured leaves are very striking (as well as being very good for you). Can be a bit fiddly to line the mould if the leaves are on the narrow side.
- Rainbow Chard – the brightly coloured stems are so pretty, and add great colour to the filling. As for the enclosing leaves – complete pants. Much too fragile to keep the filling held together. Still tastes great, but a bit of a disaster to turn out.
A Charlotte mould typically has straight, vertical sides, to make for a dramatic appearance once turned out. I used old stoneware mustard jars, seen here, which were the perfect size for a 2-person dish. A traditional pudding bowl is fine, as would be any fancy jelly or blancmange moulds.
Makes one large or several smaller charlottes, depending on the size of the mould
Green leafy vegetable: choose any of the following: Savoy cabbage, Cavolo Nero, Spring cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Red cabbage, kale
150g shortgrain or risotto rice
100g lean bacon, cooked and chopped 
3-4 whole sundried tomatoes, chopped
100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 large egg
60g grated parmesan
50g butter – divided
1 bunch (30g-ish) fresh parsley, chopped
pepper and salt
- Prepare the green leafy vegetable:
- Remove the outer leaves and steam for 5 minutes over boiling water. You should steam a few more than you actually need, depending on the size of the mould you’re using.
- Remove the stalks by slicing down either side as close as possible.
- Set the leaves aside. Chop the stalks and set aside. I add them to the filling, as I like their firmer texture, and hate waste, but it’s optional.
- Cook the rice.
- Rinse the rice thoroughly.
- Soak in heavily salted water for 30 minutes. This will both reduce the cooking time and make the rice dazzlingly white.
- When ready to cook, drain the rice into a sieve.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the rice.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes, until al dente.
- Drain into a sieve. Put the sieve back over the now empty saucepan and cover with a lid. Allow to steam dry for 10 minutes or so.
- Grease your mould(s) well with the remaining butter. Don’t skimp of the butter, otherwise your charlotte might stick. Line with the softened leaves, making sure they overlap on the sides by at least 2cm. Ensure there is enough leaf hanging over the sides to cover the filling. Chop any remaining leaves finely and add to the filling.
- Prepare the ingredients for the filling.
- Cook the onion in the oil until translucent. If you’re using mushrooms, add them into the pan and cook until softened.
- Add the rice, chopped stalks, chopped leaves, cheese, bacon (tomato) and parsley to the onions (and mushrooms) and mix thoroughly.
- Season well with salt and pepper.
- Whisk the egg and stir through the filling. The egg will help (along with the cheese) bind the filling together so that your charlotte holds together when turned out. If you think the mixture looks a little dry, then consider adding another egg, either entire or a fraction, but be aware that too much egg might leak out between your leaves and thereby impact the visual appeal.
- Spoon the filling into the mould(s). Continue, pressing down firmly as needed, until filled.
- Fold the overlapping leaves inwards to ensure the filling is completely covered.
- Cover the top with buttered foil and, if preparing ahead, put the filled mould in the fridge with a weight on top, if possible, to compress the filling.
- When ready to cook, remove from the fridge and then heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Place the mould on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes for large, 25 minutes for the smaller size mentioned above.
- Remove from the oven and peel off the foil. Place your serving dish over the top and carefully invert. DO NOT immediately remove the mould, but allow to sit for 10 minutes, to firm up.
- Carefully lift the mould from the charlotte and serve.
 The original recipe called for 400g of sausage, skins removed and breaking up the meat into ‘crumbles’, which is obviously an option if you so desire. I found a little bit of bacon can go a long way in terms of flavouring a dish.
 If you’re making a vegetarian version, you might want to add more/different cheese to increase the protein content.