Traditional French Stuffed Cabbage Recipe From Limousin France
This is another one of my Cinderella dishes! It's the perfect frugal recipe for transforming all your leftover food into something gorgeous. Stuffed cabbage is one of many such recipes from Limousin, the rural heart of France.
This is a farming area, and it was once very poor. Stale bread, chestnuts, and cabbage often feature as cooking ingredients in this area's cuisine, and this cabbage recipe features all three! I've really enjoyed eating them in the local restaurants and Videix annual fete, and then making them for myself as well. I just adore the idea of changing base materials into gold, and that is exactly what this cabbage recipe does.
So far, I haven't been brave enough to offer it to guests at my establishment—so many people just won't even try cabbage! (Can you believe it?)
Notes on the Ingredients
If you look up recipes for traditional French stuffed cabbage, you'll find they vary quite a bit, and my main recipe comes from an older local resident of Videix—the one who makes the stuffed cabbages for one of our annual communal meals (read on for more about these). There are three elements that are common to all the recipes: cabbage, moistened stale bread, and sausage meat. I reckon that you could produce this dish using only these ingredients.
In addition to these, my mentor added milk, eggs, onions, herbs, and seasoning. Other recipes suggest chestnuts (a local staple, as we are surrounded by woodlands composed of sweet chestnut and oak trees), carrots, and tomatoes.
It is obvious where this has come from. Stuffed cabbage would have been a way to use up your leftovers, so I suggest that you do the same. If you have a few assorted vegetables, chuck them in. Also I haven't included qualities. I bought a cabbage and a handful of meat and just added to that. Mine turned out to be a bit mean for two packages, so I've increased the ingredients a bit for you. But you'll likely have leftover cabbage, so just dice it and add it to the mix—or cook it separately and serve as a vegetable.
Traditional recipes ask for lard and include quite a lot of fat. But I more or less missed this, thinking the sausage meat would have enough fat in it for today's lifestyles. You can add a knob of butter if you like. Also, some suggest you add brandy and the like. I do think that, as this was a 'peasant' dish, I wouldn't pollute it with posh ingredients. Why should you when it is so delicious anyway?
If you have filling left over, make it into a beef burger shape, flour it, and fry it as a rissole. Waste not, want not!
- 1 large Savoy-type cabbage
- 1 handful of sausage meat (I asked for 'une poignée' (a handful) of sausage meat. Fortunately, it was the butcher's hand and not mine. I think that was about right.)
- 1/3 of a baguette of bread (Perhaps about the same quantity of bread as meat. Dice this and soak in milk. You could also use stock instead to moisten the bread.0
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1–2 onions, finely diced
- 2–3 garlic cloves
- 2 large carrots, diced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Knob of butter
- Herbs (I used dried thyme, but I wish that I'd thought of getting some sage and parsley from the garden!)
Note: You'll also need cooking twine, the string they use to truss chickens.
- Take the leaves off the cabbage, wash, and boil in salted water for 5–10 minutes until softened. Drain and leave to cool.
- Mix up all the ingredients. I found the only way to do it was to squash them together with my hands.
- Cut out only the very woody ends of the leaves.
- Lay out the strings as shown. I think you need four strings cut sufficiently long to pass around the finished parcel and to tie at the top.
- Place the leaves onto the strings so that they overlap each other.
- Put a pile of stuffing onto the leaves (a little larger than the pile shown in my picture—I think I was a little mingy with the filling).
- Carefully fold the leaves over the stuffing and tie the strings to form neat little parcels.
- Cover with boiling water and simmer for about an hour.
Note: Mine were delicious, but I sort of steamed them for 45 minutes or so. The local experts look as if they have been boiled for longer. You can choose!
Serve Hot or Cold
At our meals, the cabbage was served as a course in its own right, after the entrée, but before the main dish. No need for sauce, as it is a wonderfully moist dish. I served mine hot on the first day as the main course at dinner, along with baked potatoes, giving everyone a quarter each.
On the second day, when the cabbage parcel was cold, it was possible to slice it. Served like this with a little salad for decoration, it makes a super starter. They look so pretty on the dinner table too.
I made mine later in the evening, so the photos didn't turned out very sharp. I'll have an opportunity to retake them fairly soon though, as my 13-year-old son wanted them again straight away! How is that for success?
Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage Options
If you have a look at the comments below, you'll see that Amanda Severn has reminded me about adding a vegetarian alternative. She used to make a dish like this using 'Sausmix', and I think it would work really well if you replaced the meat with chestnuts. Please feel free to leave your favourite variations on a theme.