Hey folks, Hilary here. I am excited to share this recipe for one of my favourite holiday foods: Vegan Cabbage Rolls!
** Full disclosure right off the bat: we’re not vegan, but we love vegan cooking! We keep free-ranging chickens for eggs and manure, we eat local, lovingly raised animals (once or twice a week) and when our friends are feeling fancy, we are treated to gourmet, wild scavenged charcuterie. (Moose jerky, periwinkles or herb-infused bear fat anyone?) For us, eating meat is a sacred exchange of life force; not to be taken for granted, not to be done in excess. It is an act filled with love, gratitude and knowing. **
My family is from Cape Breton, with Scottish Gaelic roots. During the late 1800’s, there was an industrial boom in Cape Breton. People came from all over the world to work in the mines and steel plant. Along with other aspects of their culture, these immigrants brought their own traditional recipes. Polish and Ukrainian families introduced cabbage rolls to Cape Breton Island and that dish has become a household favourite on the island, particularly at Christmas, no matter where your people are from!
Everyone has their own take on the now Cape Breton Cabbage Roll. Nanny's original family recipe involves ground pork and Minute Rice. This vegan cabbage roll recipe was discovered and adapted by my mother when I was experimenting with vegetarianism in my early twenties. It’s since become the new family favourite! You're going to love it!
There are five parts to making cabbage rolls:
- making the filling
- making the sauce
- prepping the cabbage
Give yourself a couple of hours to make this recipe from start to finish.
INGREDIENTS AND PROCESS
- Mixed Whole Grain Rice, cooked (1 3/4 cups water, 1 cup rice, 45 mins)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp powdered allspice
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp savoury
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- salt + pepper to taste
- 3 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
- 3 cups walnuts
- Start cooking the rice. This can also be done earlier in the day or the day before.
- In another large pot, warm the olive oil and sauté onions, garlic and spices until onions are translucent. Medium heat folks.
- Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes.
- Crush walnuts until the largest bits are the size of a pea. To achieve this roll them with a rolling pin or pulse in a food processor. *Don't use walnut flour! It is too fine, likely rancid and will taste bitter!*
- Add the crushed walnuts to the mushroom pot. Mix well, add 1/2 cup water, cover and simmer on low for another 10 minutes.
- Add the rice, mix well and set aside to cool.
- 4 cups of tomato of home canned tomato sauce **If you didn't quite get to this back in the Fall, combine 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1 can diced tomatoes (drained) and 1 tiny can of tomato paste. This will give you slightly more sauce.**
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Put everything together in a pot.
- Cover, slowly bring to a boil over medium heat and immediately reduce to low.
- Simmer covered for 30 minutes.
PREPPING THE CABBAGE
- 1 large green cabbage
- Decide whether or not you want to steam or boil the cabbage. Steaming is superior because more nutrients remain in the cabbage. If you don't have a steaming insert large enough for a whole cabbage, fill a large pot half-way with water and bring to a boil.
- Core the cabbage. This is done from underneath by cutting inward from all around the stem.
- Cook the whole cabbage for 2-5 minutes, or until soft.
- Let the cabbage cool enough to handle and then peel off leaves. You may have to repeat step three as you get closer to the centre.
- Begin by spreading a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish.
- Lay the steamed cabbage leaves out, with the concave side facing up and the thicker stem end closest to you.
- Spoon a couple scoops of filling onto each leaf. This amount will depend on the size of the leaf.
- Package them up by folding in the sides of cabbage leaf over the filling and then using your thumbs to roll the stem end, away from you.
- Place each bundle, seam down in the casserole dish, allowing some space in between for the sauce to cover. If your casserole dish is deep, you can do more than one layer.
- Pour sauce over everything. Do not remove the bay leaves yet!
In contrast to meat filled cabbage rolls, the filling is already fully cooked. This last step is to further cook the cabbage leaves and to infuse and strengthen all the flavours. Almost there!
- Pre-heat over to 350F.
- Bake covered for 45 minutes, or until the dish is thoroughly hot. If you have layered your cabbage rolls, it make take a bit longer for the middle to come up to temperature.
- Remove bay leaves and serve!
We usually have cabbage roles and lasagna (another Christmas-in-Cape-Breton tradition. Grazie Italians!) This combo is our family's Christmas Eve meal. as you know, either dish is delicious any time of year! Enjoy!
*Cabbage Rolls freezer very well! If you are someone who likes to cook ahead of time, this is a great recipe for you! xo