...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Food journal number 39: kålpudding

What to do with that left-over cabbage? – You've probably asked yourself that, one time or another. Or not. At any case, I've got some answers for the question you haven't thought of asking yet. I'm resolved to spread the gospel of cabbage: it's cheap, it's nutritious, it keeps in the refrigerator for ages. And if you explore some recipes, you'll find out that it's also a versatile vegetable.

You can, among other things, cook it in a stew (like this Filipino recipe for nilaga), turn it into coleslaw, kimchi, pizza salad, or sauerkraut (I'll have to write about sauerkraut or surkål here some other time). Raw, you can eat cabbage in fine strips as a salad with tomatoes and vinaigrette, and lately I also discovered that you can substitute lettuce for finely cut cabbage in tacos and burritos. We tried this yesterday and I highly recommend it (Thanks, Lara! Got this from your post). Raw cabbage is high in vitamin C, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals; lettuce I'm afraid, are mostly water.

But for the moment, my favorite eating way of eating lots of cabbage is in the form of this classic Swedish dish, kålpudding, or cabbage pudding. Yes, there is such a thing as savory puddings – check wikipedia! ;-). Kålpudding seems to be a lazy variation of kåldolmar, which are meat and rice mixtures individually wrapped in cabbage leaves, which I wrote about here before. The difference is that the cabbage here is cut, leaving out the need to peel individual leaves whole.

Maragareta's kålpudding. My mouth waters.

I read a blog entry in which the author wrote that nature of "the authentic kålpudding" is as enigmatic as the nature of "the authentic Swedish winter" – everybody has an idea of what it is although the ideas rarely match. Some recipes for kålpudding include rice porridge to the meat mixture (which was probably what they did in the old days). Others add milk to the mixture while others prefer to "water" the pudding with broth during the baking process – both are attempts to keep the meat from drying out. I saw a recipe where one added onions to kålpudding; in another recipe, the author added anchovies. Others even add breadcrumbs. And finally, even in serving the dish, people have different opinions. While others cook a sauce to top it with, others have it with lingonberries on the side.

In fact, the only thing consistent in all the recipes was how to cook the cabbage – by boiling it, of course, and flavoring it with syrup (or sugar) and soy sauce. Like a Filipino adobo, anything goes after that... kind of. Below is the recipe that Margareta, Marcus' godmother used – but even she took liberties with the original recipe, as we wanted more cabbage in proportion to the meat. Mörk sirap or dark syrup was used in this recipe, but in the spirit of "anything goes", I think it can be substituted for homemade syrup or even corn syrup (other recipes say sugar should work as well). It should make the cabbage tastier and render it with a bit of color when baked.


1.5 kg cabbage (usually white cabbage, but savoy and napa cabbage also appear in some recipes)
1 kg ground meat (Margareta used wild boar in her original recipe. Otherwise, ground lamb or half-and-half beef and pork work excellent too)
2 liters water
1.5 vegetable bouillon cubes
1/2 dl (0.2 cups) syrup
3 T soy sauce
3 eggs
ground black pepper
dried herbs: marjoram, thyme, oregano
3 deciliters (1.2 cups) milk or cream

As you see, there can be a lot of substitutions just here on the list of ingredients! As a plus, all the ingredients – if you stick to minced beef and pork – are cheap.

1. Take off the hard part off the head of cabbage and cut its leaves into small pieces.
2. Boil some water with bouillon and cook the cabbage there for 5-7 minutes.
3. After it has cooked, drain the cabbage and season with the syrup and soy sauce. Some cookbooks say you should let it cool before seasoning it. Others don't specify.
4. Prepare the meat: blend it with the eggs, salt (can be substituted with bouillon or a little concentrated broth), pepper and spices. Lastly, add the milk or cream and mix it all up until it achieves a kind of loose consistency. (Margareta also added sautéed minced red onions and some minced garlic.)
5.In a buttered baking form, spread half the cabbage to form a bottom layer.
6. Over this layer of cabbage, spread the meat mixture evenly. Then take the remaining cabbage to form a top layer. The whole lot goes into the preheated 250C-degree oven. As soon as the form goes in the oven though, reduce the temperature to 200 degrees C and let the pudding bake for an hour.

...and tah dah!

This particular one we ate with boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam in the "classic" Swedish way. But I and Marcus otherwise eat it with rice, which I believe it goes really well with (and I'm not saying this not only because I'm Asian. It's the "objective truth" ;-) !)

The best thing about this recipe is that it's a pleaser. The second best thing is that it's something you can cook in big batches and freeze for later. Tasty, cheap, fast – fits all my criteria for good food :-D

I could it eat it every single day! Try it, today!


Anonymous Lara said...

jaakko likes the cabbage "stew" version where we leave out the eggs and cream and then we blend it with gröt ris. but i think this pudding is worth a try. :-)

5:36 PM

Anonymous Lara said...

i just asked jaakko if he would like us to try the pudding. he said no :-( he hates milk. :-P *sigh*

5:41 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Here's a recipe from ICA without milk! As I said, anything goes!

6:32 PM

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