Every year I gripe at the sheer craziness that takes over come December, and every year, once Christmas morning arrives and the world takes a much needed pause, I relish in the the quiet time we get to spend together with friends and family. This year was no exception, as we did what we always do come December 25th. A morning of opening stockings and presents, followed by family breakfast around the table. Christmas breakfast is always crepes, served with canned peaches and stuffed with all manner of goodies: nutella, jams, fresh fruit, whatever I happen to have on hand. This year I forgot maple syrup so we poured 'poor man's syrup' over our plates, a mixture of honey and butter (this year we used coconut butter), and a pinch of salt ~ this is a recipe passed on from my folks, and it's pretty much all I recall having as a child with pancakes, and our Christmas crepes are really just a personalized version of the cast iron skillet sized pancakes we grew up eating as kids. Always whole wheat. Always stacked as high as could be on one of our largest second hand plates. Christmas growing up was simply always my favourite time.
These moments with family and loved ones are why Christmas is special, and this year I've vowed that come next year, I'm not going to gripe in December (or I'll do my very best I swear!). Sure I get heavily bothered by the commercialism, the obligatory push towards consumption we find ourselves feeling forced into. Stress that we're going to miss something or someone big this year. The financial burden of it all (there are some ways around this). With children these pressures are especially heavy, as my kids hold strong to the traditions we've built around this time of year as a family. This year as we finished the breakfast clean-up and loaded up the car for Whistler, I felt an extreme sense of gratitude for the time we have together. And while it seems that Christmas is a frenzied list of 'have-to's', it's actually all kind of worth it in the end. And by kind of I mean 100% worth it.
Now that those days are passed again for another year, we look to the coming week of resting and looking ahead. It's really, really nice, isn't it? I sure think so. I served these cabbage rolls Christmas eve, and stuffed them with blue barley instead of rice. You could easily use white or brown rice as I've always done in the past, but I found the nutty taste of the barley to be a lovely change and a perfect locally grown addition. Use your favourite tomato soup for the sauce, and be sure to add the extra layer of potatoes on the bottom ~ they are worth the dig to the bottom of the pan for.
Wishing you all a wonderful end to this holiday season, and a very calm and peaceful start to 2017.
Barley & Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls:
- 1 large head savoy cabbage
- 1/2 cup dry blue barley, cooked
- 1/2 cup dry French Lentils, cooked
- 2 tbsp olive oil (or any cooking oil)
- 1 medium-large red onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped finely
- 3/4 cup raw cashews, finely ground
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled
- 1 litre Tomato Soup (I use this one)
- Parmesan cheese and olive oil for finishing
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the barley with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook partially covered until soft, about 40 minutes. In a separate pot, combine the French lentils with 2.5 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes, fully covered until soft and the water is mostly (if not all) absorbed. Rinse, drain and set aside to cool.
While the lentils and barley cook, fill a large soup pot with water (high enough to submerge a cabbage in without overflowing once it is set inside) and bring to a boil with the lid on. Core the bottom of the head of cabbage, leaving the top intact. When the water has reached a boil, turn the heat off and submerge the entire head of cabbage into the water. Cover and set the timer for 5 minutes. Once 5 minutes passes, remove the pot from the stove and drain the water into a colander, leaving the cabbage to cool. While the cabbage cools, prepare the ground cashews and chop the vegetables.
To cook the vegetables, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the chopped red onion and cook, stirring for 8-10 minutes. Next, add the carrots and 1/2 tsp salt and cook a further 8-10 minutes. When the vegetables are cooked, add them to the large bowl with the barley. Add the lentils, ground cashews, chopped parsley, and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt and mix well, using your hands to squeeze the filling together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Once the cabbage has cooled enough to handle, separate each leaf one at a time and make a pile of them. Peel and very thinly slice the potatoes into long flat pieces, as these will be laying flat on the bottom of the pan. To prepare the rolls, pour 1/2 cup of tomato soup in the bottom of an un-oiled 9/13 baking pan. Lay the potato slices evenly across the bottom of the pan over the sauce.
Roll the cabbage leaves with about a scant 1/4 cup of filling per roll (this will depend on the size of the cabbage leaf) and roll the cabbage leaves away from you, tucking in the sides as you go. Tuck the finished rolls into the pan with the seam side down. Continue until all of the leaves are filled and the pan is full. To finish, pour the remaining tomato soup over the rolls, allowing the sauce to sink into the spaces between. Top with grated parmesan and black pepper and bake at 350 degrees for one hour, until the potatoes at the bottom are soft and the sauce has thickened. Serve topped with more grated parmesan and fresh parsley.
This recipe should make enough to feed 6-8 as a side, and can easily be doubled to make a second pan if required. Leftover stuffing can be heated and eaten as is topped with grated cheddar, and leftover cooked cabbage makes a great addition to curries and soups. Leftovers get better as the days pass, and will keep for up to a week refrigerated.