There’s a certain record of kindergarten escapes in our family. My mum, Ela, ran away when she was five. Having played with the few toys, eaten some soggy snack and explored the toilet, she single-mindedly decided it was time to get back home. So, hush hush. She sneaked out of the playroom. On the tipee-toes. She opened the main door. Easy peasy. She pushed the garden gate. Out on the road, that back then was a mere country road and now has six lanes, she looked to the left, she looked to the right, she looked to the left again – took a deep breath and crossed. 1000 steps later, she was home. Safe, sound, proud of herself and matter-of-factly peeling potatoes for dinner with her grandma.
My husband, Maciek, had the whole escape planned. It involved jumping through the window and climbing over the fence. Running up the stairs and sliding down the railing. It was all about making a stand. As firm as a five-year-old could. Needless to say, neither Ela nor Maciek went to the kindergarten again.
I did not go to the kindergarten either and spent a careless childhood running in my grandparents’ garden, playing games and eating comfort food. One of my favorites were cabbage rolls that in Polish are named after certain grey urban cooing birds –“Gołąbki”. As a matter of fact, no pigeon was ever meant to be a part of this dish, yet, when I was four, and linguistically unaware that things are not always what they are called, I used to think that the dish was the actual roasted pigeons.
This is one of the dishes I never even tried to perfect and would always ask my mum to make for me. So here it is – a step by step Ela’s recipe.
Cabbage Rolls – “Gołąbki”
500 g pulled or cooked minced pork
500 g cooked rice
1 Savoy cabbage
1 chopped onion
1 tbl rapeseed oil
salt and pepper to taste
for the tomato sauce:
1 chopped onion
1 chopped carrot
1 tbl of rapeseed oil
1 can of plum tomatoes
Start with preparing your cabbage rolls. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Heat the oil on a low heat and sauté the onion until golden. Mix it with minced pork and rice. Season with salt and pepper. Place your cabbage in a big enough pot filled with salted water and bring to boil. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn the cabbage upside down and boil for the same time to make sure that the cabbage leaves are soft enough to use for wrapping. Once soft and cooled a bit- one by one carefully peel the leaves and remove the white stem. Each of the leaves will be the wrapping for the pork and rice filling. Place some stuffing in the middle of the leaf. Press down to make it into a cylindrical shape. Tuck in the top, the sides and roll down to the bottom. Make sure you fully and tightly wrap it with cabbage. Sit the rolls in an ovenproof dish, cover with some leftover cabbage leaves and bake in the oven for an hour and a half up to 2 hours.
Once the rolls are in the oven, get the tomato sauce ready. Heat some oil in the casserole and fry the onions for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the carrot and fry for another 10 minutes. Add plum tomatoes with their liquid. Rinse the can with some water to get any remaining liquid and add to the pot. Season with some salt, pepper and sugar. Add passata di pomodoro and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and let the sauce bubble until it thickens.
Enjoy, especially on a rainy afternoon.