I have two apologies for this dish. Firstly, while it may be a staple in many households, it’s something I had never made before. Secondly, it’s laughably simple. Lest you had forgotten how basic my culinary skills are, read on.
This was a Ready Steady Cook thing which I made at the weekend. Our shopping had been a bit haphazard, we had both been independently to Secret Sainsbury’s (that’s the one next door to the heroin factory*), and the fridge was threatening to bear a resemblance to a Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare, though minus the mould. I’ve never been a fan of stuffed vine leaves, nor indeed, for that matter, any sort of stuffed veg. They generally feature rice, and are often very, very dull. The first thing to catch my eye was a Savoy cabbage. Cabbage can be a very fine thing, provided you cook it either very quickly or very slowly. Anything in between is a mistake. I’ve used many types, and the dramatic looking Savoy would normally be the last pick, like the speccy kid when football teams were being chosen. (I know – I was that speccy kid.) But zapped with the world’s fastest tomato sauce, some pimped up mince, and a whatever-leftover-cheese-do-we-have sauce, it turned out quite nicely, in something under an hour.
Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)
6 large Savoy cabbage leaves, the toughest part of the central stalks removed; the world’s fastest tomato sauce (see below); clear up the fridge cheese sauce (see below); spicy mince (see below); 6 cocktail sticks.
The World’s Fastest Tomato Sauce
1 carton passata; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp sugar.
Put all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil, then simmer until the sauce thickens.
Clear up the Fridge Cheese Sauce
Butter and flour in approximate ratio of 30:25; milk; cheese; salt; white pepper.
I’m assuming you know how to make a white sauce? If not, melt the butter over a medium heat, then, with a wooden spoon, stir in the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the milk, little by little. Chuck in whatever cheese you have. If using blue cheese or the likes of Brie, cut the rind off. Allow the cheese to melt and continue stirring until you have a nice smooth sauce of a medium thickness.
500g mince (I used beef, but lamb would work well too); 1 onion, very finely chopped; 2 cloves garlic; good squeeze tomato paste; Tabasco; salt and pepper.
Basic mince technique – soften the onion and the garlic. Chuck in the mince to brown. Stir in the tomato paste. Season with S & P & Tabasco. Add some water and simmer until the mince is cooked. Check the seasoning.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/ Mark 5. While the mince is cooking, put the cabbage leaves in boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove and pat dry. Into each leaf, spoon a layer each of tomato sauce, mince and cheese sauce. Form a parcel and hold in place with a cocktail stick. Put the parcels in an oven proof dish. Spoon over any excess sauces. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling.
* The very reputable company of McFarlan Smith is situated in Gorgie, just behind Murrayfield Stadium, and next door to my local branch of Sainsbury’s. It, perfectly legally, produces all manner of opiates, as well as having a licence to cultivate its own opium poppies. It features in Irvine Welsh’s Skagboys, the prequel to Trainspotting.