Need Something to Warm the Cockles of your Heart?

8 Nov

Early November has delivered colder than average temperatures for us in Canada’s capital. Certainly nothing as drastic as Hurricane Sandy and all her wanton ruin visited upon the Caribbean and the American eastern seaboard. Whip up cold, dark, damp weather and my body aches for comfort food.

Finished Cabbage Roll Soup

My taste buds yearned for cabbage rolls — my mother’s cabbage rolls. Cooking rice, softening cabbage leaves, filling individual leaves and then rolling them all up and baking them is waaayy too fussy for this savvy cook. So how to get all those flavours without all the work? Cabbage Roll (Holubtsi) Soup.  I’m told Holubtsi is the Ukranian word for cabbage rolls. Perhaps someone could confirm or correct me on this point?

I adapted my recipe from several I found for both cabbage rolls and cabbage soup. I used orzo – rice-shaped pasta instead of the customary rice. I felt the tiny pasta would retain better body over time. Many recipes recommended making the soup one day and eating it the next day when the flavours intensified.

Chopped onion, carrot and celery

Peel and finely dice (about 1/4″/6.5 mm) 1 large onion. Peel 2 carrots and chop into small dice. Finely dice 2 stalks of celery. Peel the outer leaves from half a small green cabbage and chop into medium cubes (½”/13.0 mm) You should have about 2–3 cups/500–750mL.

Drain cooked ground beef and set aside in bowl

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add 3/4 pound (340gms) of lean ground beef. Increase temperature to Medium High and brown the beef, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. When beef is cooked, remove it to a bowl and set aside.

Salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg and bay leaf.

Over Medium heat, warm a second tablespoon of EVOO to the pot. Add 2 garlic cloves, minced, diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 – 8 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the onion is translucent.

Spice it up!

Into the pot, sprinkle 1.5 tablespoons of paprika, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Return the cooked ground beef to the pot. Add 1– 28 oz/830mL can of diced or whole (chopped) tomatoes with juice, 1 cup/250mL of low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, 1 cup/250mL passata (or tomato sauce),1 cup of water,1 bay leaf and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and bring to a boil, reduce heat until liquid simmers gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Add diced cabbage and stir into beef-tomato base.

Add the chopped cabbage, ½ cup/125mL orzo pasta, 1 cup/250mL vegetable stock, 1 cup/250mL water and a pinch of salt. Stir well to combine the cabbage and pasta. Let the pot come to a simmer again. Cook, partially covered, for 6 minutes. Keep a close eye on the pot, stirring frequently, to prevent the pasta or cabbage from burning to the bottom of the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking, adding up to 1.5 tablespoons more paprika, 1 tablespoon more Worcestershire Sauce and more pepper if you like a lively flavour.

Add orzo pasta

Allow the soup pot to cool before refrigerating. In all likelihood you will need to add more water (or V-8 vegetable juice) when you reheat the soup on subsequent day(s) as both the pasta and cabbage will continue to absorb liquid. You will have 6 or more servings.

Stir in cabbage and pasta, return to simmer and cook for 6 minutes

The soup is hearty enough for a nourishing supper. Serve with some chewy multi-grain rolls, a bit of cheese and a flavourful glass of beer or red wine. Some folks might like a dollop of sour cream on the soup, but I didn’t find it necessary.

Allow soup to cool before refrigerating

Take your dinner tray before a roaring fire and the cockles of your heart will indeed be warmed.

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