You might recall my visit to the local Ukranian Church hall I made a couple of months ago to learn how to make highly addictive varenyky. Well, I went back again, this time to get my head around holubsti; seasoned minced beef and pork wrapped in a cigar-like fashion with lightly cooked cabbage leaves. A mainstay of any Ukranian kitchen and one I’ve become quite fond of eating whenever Dean’s Baba (grandmother) makes a batch to share with the family.
This time Baba came along, which gave her a good excuse to set her hair and put on her Sunday best. Baba took the opportunity to catch up with many of her friends from the Church which she has been a part of for over 60 years. Once we got to the hall she pointed out herself in photos from collages around the room that show past celebrations. Baba was a part of the choir and would often dress in traditional costume at Christmas and Easter.
Once the cooking demonstration began Baba would lean over to me and whisper her variation on the recipe or technique she uses. Others in the audience made their differences a little more vocal. Everyone agreed on one thing – there’s no wrong way to make holubsti as long as it contains mince, onion, paprika, rice and cabbage.
It was great to take some time out to learn another family speciality with Baba whose knowledge and generosity we take for granted.
1 cup medium grain white rice (3 cups cooked)
½ red capsicum, finely chopped
½ green capsicum, finely chopped
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized carrot, finely grated
500g pork mince
500g beef mince
1 medium sized cabbage
Cook the rice to about three-quarters done. Drain and set aside to cool completely. Over a medium heat, fry the onion in a little olive oil and butter until soft and golden. Add the capsicum, carrot and garlic and stir to combine then remove from heat. Add the onion mixture to the cold rice along with all the remaining ingredients (except the cabbage) and mix very well.
Core the cabbage and immerse in a pot of boiling water. As the whole cabbage head cooks, remove cabbage leaves one at a time using tongs. After you have removed a leaf, trim the main vein to ensure the leaf lies completely flat on a plate. Pile each leaf atop the other.
Preheat the oven to 180C. One at a time, place a cabbage leaf, inside facing up, on a flat surface with the stem closest to you. Heap 2 tablespoons of the filling (adjust according to the size of the leaf) at the core end forming a sausage lengthways. Roll to half way and then fold in the edges and continue to roll to form a cigar shape. Repeat with the remaining filling and cabbage leaves.
Arrange the holubsti, stem side down, in a shallow baking tray large enough to arrange them snugly as one layer so they retain their shape while cooking. Add a little chicken stock or water to the baking tray and cover foil. Place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the meat is cooked through – check by cutting a holubsti in half.
Serve hot from the oven with a tomato or mushroom chutney.Share this on: