A little light vegetarian cabbage stuffed with lentils and ginger recipe in the interests of purity in a time of excess. A variation on that classic of the French kitchen, chou farci à l’ancienne.
1 Savoy or January King lettuce
4 sticks celery
4 leeks, white only
4 medium carrots
40g root ginger
Olive oil (or butter), for frying
200g cooked, well-flavoured lentils
For the tomato sauce:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 485g tins chopped tomatoes
Peel from one organic orange
2 tbsp tomato purée
Remove 18 outer cabbage leaves and blanch for four minutes. Cool and refresh in cold water, then dry. Roughly chop the remaining cabbage and cook in the same water until soft. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can. Finely chop the other veg and ginger. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the chopped veg and stew gently for 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the chopped cabbage and lentils, cook for a few more minutes, season, then beat in the eggs.
Lay out a piece of cling film roughly 30cm square. Cut the thickest part of the rib out of the 18 cabbage leaves. Lay three leaves in a clover shape, overlapping each other, in the centre of the cling film; you should end up with an irregular circle. Plop a sixth of the lentil mix in the centre, pick up the four corners of the cling film and draw towards each other—this should cause the leaves to wrap around the filling. Twirl together the corners of the cling film to make a neat, plump, circular package. Repeat with the remaining leaves. This can be done well in advance; keep the parcels in the fridge.
Now make the tomato sauce. Splash some olive oil into a hot saucepan, and fry the vegetables gently until soft. Add the vinegar and reduce by half. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes and orange peel, turn down the heat and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Taste. Stir in the purée. Taste. Does it need salt? Pepper? A pinch of sugar? Discard the peel, then pass through a mouli or sieve. It should be as smooth and thick as 007. To finish off the cabbage, steam or poach the parcels in salted water for 15-20 minutes. Put a big splash of tomato sauce on each plate, carefully remove the cling film from the parcels and place on top.