Chou Farci (sort of!)

Chou Farci

This dish, made with the humblest of ingredients, is quite simply fantastic. Synergy is sometimes considered to be the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. If so, this dish has it in spades. It contains nothing more than green cabbage, plain sausage meat, a little butter and the smallest amounts of salt and pepper, but is one of the tastiest things you’ll ever encounter. The Swedes have something similar with Kålpudding, but it is an altogether coarser affair. I found this recipe in Tamasin Day Lewis’ Good Tempered Food, where she reports to have found it in a Jane Grigson book. We cook it on a regular basis and each time immediately look forward to the next time.

The name I have given here may be a little misleading as it implies stuffed cabbage. Although you could make it this way, this recipe is more like a lasagna. It is best to use lightly seasoned sausage meat (with at least 70% meat content) as the flavour is concentrated during the cooking and more heavily spiced mixes will completely dominate the dish.

Summary

Makes: 4 portions
Preparation: 20mins
Cooking: 2 hours

Ingredients

1 Head
400g
25g
Green cabbage (eg savoy)
Good sausage meat
Butter
Salt
Pepper

Method

Peel the leaves from the cabbage as far as you can. You may need to discard the outer leaves as they can be tough. Cut out the central stalk. Towards the core, it can be a bit fiddly, so just do the best you can. Wash the leaves thoroughly. Pour about 5cm of water into a large pot, salt lightly and bring to the boil. Add the cabbage, put the lid on and cook for 3 minutes. Drain, refresh and squeeze out any excess water.

If starting with sausages, slit the skins and press out the meat. Butter a casserole dish. We are now ready to assemble the dish. There will be 3 sausage meat layers and 4 cabbage layers. Try to keep the bigger, darker leaves for the top layer. Place some of the smaller leaves on the bottom to form a cushion to lift the meat off the bottom of the dish. Take one third of the sausage meat and spread it evenly over the cabbage. If you want, you can now very sparingly sprinkle a little salt and pepper. However, my advice would be to cook the dish once without doing this so you can get an idea of the flavour from your sausage meat. If necessary, next time you can season judiciously. Put a new layer of cabbage and then sausage meat until the sausage meat is used up. Finish with a layer of cabbage using the big, dark leaves. Dot some butter evenly around the top, place some greaseproof paper right on top to seal in the steam and put on a good fiiting lid. Place in an oven preheated to 150ºC and wait for 2 hours. The time isn’t too critical: I’ve eaten it plenty of times after 1½ hours.

Serve with cranberry sauce and plain boiled potatoes.