Stuffed cabbage and ricotta pancakes: Alex Jackson’s recipes for festive rolls | Food

Here’s a fun meal for you: stuffed cabbage followed by stuffed pancakes. Double rolls! Cabbage rolls are popular all over continental Europe, so god knows why the UK hasn’t taken to them in the same way – after all, we love a bit of mince and boiled cabbage. These ones are close to the Polish gołąbki (which translates as “little pigeons”) that were taught to me by my late grandmother-in-law Wiera. Then, for afters, some stuffed crepes by way of the late Gay Hussar restaurant in London: we still cook them in the very same kitchen, at what is now Noble Rot Soho, though we jazz them up slightly with a sour cherry suzette.

Stuffed cabbage rolls (pictured above)

This is an untraditional recipe in that I’ve included some pheasant meat in the stuffing, but it also works with (leftover) turkey or any other game, and is equally delicious made with just pork. I often make a vegan version at home with a mushroom and sauerkraut filling.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4

1 savoy cabbage
50g butter
, plus 2 tbsp extra for frying
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 onion
, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped
75g risotto rice
400g fatty pork mince
2 boneless pheasant breasts
(about 150g), skinned and chopped small (or 150g leftover roast turkey)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
, to taste
2 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
6 slices dried porcini, soaked in a little hot water
150ml tomato passata
Boiled potatoes (peeled), to serve
Soured cream, to serve

Bring a big pot of water to a simmer. Core the cabbage, then pop it core side up in the water and cut off each leaf one by one as it lifts and separates from the head. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towel to drain and cool, then trim the central ribs so the leaves lie a bit flatter, which will make them easier to roll later.

Melt two tablespoons of butter and the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, then saute the onion, garlic and thyme for about 15 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and 100ml water, and cook, stirring (like for risotto), for about 15 minutes, adding more water as it’s soaked up, until the rice is almost done. Set aside to cool, then stir in all the meat and the parsley, and season.

Now to stuff the cabbage. Put a fat sausage of stuffing along one side of each leaf, then roll up tightly and fold in the sides, much as you would a burrito: they should be fat and full, but not overstuffed or they will split while cooking. You should end up with 12-16 rolls, or enough for three or four per person. Lay the stuffed leaves fold side down in a pot in which they’ll fit snugly in two layers: make sure they’re tightly packed so they don’t move around during cooking.

Mix the bouillon powder with 300ml just-boiled water, then stir in the strained ceps, their soaking liquid and the passata, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Pour the broth over the cabbage rolls – it should almost cover them, with just the top of the upper layer poking out.

Slice the 50g butter, lay over the tops of the rolls, to cover, then pop on the lid and bring to a simmer on a medium-low heat. Leave to cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rolls are soft right through.

Season again to taste, then serve with the pan juices, boiled potatoes and soured cream.

Baked stuffed pancakes with sour cherry sauce

Alex Jackson’s baked stuffed pancakes with sour cherry sauce.
Alex Jackson’s baked stuffed pancakes with sour cherry sauce.

This dish is adapted from one that used to be on the menu at the Gay Hussar, the Hungarian restaurant that once inhabited the premises where I now cook. Túrós palacsinta is a sweet, cottage cheese-stuffed pancake that’s rolled up, brushed with butter, sprinkled with sugar and baked until crisp; my version features ricotta and cream cheese, and I like to serve it with a suzette-style sauce made with sour cherries. It’s not particularly traditional (sorry, Hungary), but ricotta and sour cherries is a classic combination, and the crimson sauce looks wonderfully festive. Thanks to Simon Hopkinson for pointing me in the right direction.

Prep 15 min
Rest 1 hr
Cook 30 min
Serves 4

For the batter
140g flour
2 eggs
1 pinch salt
1 pinch caster sugar
, plus a little extra to finish
140ml milk
140ml sparkling water
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
, for cooking the pancakes
1-2 tbsp salted butter, softened, for brushing the pancakes

For the filling
125g ricotta
90g cream cheese
, or cottage cheese
1 egg
15g raisins
, soaked in a little rum
1 tsp mixed orange and lemon peel
Fresh orange and lemon juice
, to taste
40g caster sugar
Icing sugar
, to serve

For the sauce
250g frozen sour cherries
125g caster sugar
100g cold unsalted butter
, diced, plus 1 tbsp extra to finish
2 tbsp rum

Whisk all the batter ingredients in a bowl until smooth and well combined, then rest for an hour.

Meanwhile, mix all the filling ingredients in a second bowl, then taste and add more sugar or lemon juice if need be. Put in the fridge until ready to use.

Blitz the sour cherries in a blender with 25g sugar, then pass through a fine sieve. Put the remaining 100g sugar in a small pan on a medium heat, leave to melt to a light caramel, then whisk in first the cherry juice, then the cubed butter and finally the rum. Keep the sauce in the pan to reheat later.

Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. While the oven’s coming up to temperature, make eight pancakes. Heat your favourite pancake pan and add a small knob of unsalted butter. Pour a small ladleful of batter into the pan, swirl and cook for about a minute, until set underneath. Flip, cook on the other side for another minute, then set aside to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Put two or three tablespoons of filling on one edge of each cooled pancake, then roll up into a thin cylinder. Put the pancakes on a lightly buttered tray, brush with salted butter and sprinkle lightly with more sugar. Bake for four or five minutes, until crisp and coloured at the edges.

While the pancakes are cooking, gently reheat the sauce. Pour some sauce on to each plate, put two pancakes on top and serve sprinkled with more icing sugar.

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