Every year in my town, there’s a Polish Festival sponsored by a local church. When we were kids, the games and rides were the draw. Once we got older, we realized what the real reason for the festival was: food. Fabulous Polish food including potato pancakes, pierogies and stuffed cabbage.
The festival is usually held late in the summer and I think for that reason, I associate stuffed cabbage with summertime. Although, I think most people would agree that they’re pretty perfect in the winter.
Since I stopped eating meat, I’ve been able to stuff myself full of the potato pancakes and pierogies, but the stuffed cabbage was no longer my festival friend. This recipe is a vegan version of stuffed cabbage.
Considering that stuffed cabbage is a pretty standard dish across Eastern Europe, I wasn’t really sure which country assign this one too. I’m considering it Hungarian mainly because of the sauce; this is a sweet and sour sauce which is found more often in the Hungarian versions than other versions.
Anywho, these babies are filled with lentils and eggplant instead of beef. Once the cabbage is blanched and easy to manipulate, you can basically just roll these up like burritos. Actually stuffing the cabbage is a pretty simple process. Getting each part of this ready to go is a little more time consuming.
Outside of the cabbage and the rice, you can more or less do anything with this filling. Feel free to swap out the eggplant and lentils for whatever veggies you like best. Also, if you were making this in the summer, fresh tomatoes might be nice. Leftover filling also makes a nice, easy lunch so don’t worry if there’s more filling than leaves.
- 10 cabbage leaves
- 1 c. rice
- ½ c. lentils
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 1 eggplant, medium dice
- 2 carrots, peeled, small dice
- 1 red onion, small dice
- 4 stalks celery, small dice
- 3 bay leaves, 1 for rice & 2 for sauce
- ¼ c. onion, small dice
- 2 tbsp. fresh thyme
- 2 cans of peeled tomatoes
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 c. vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- Preheat oven to 350F/177C.
- Crush tomatoes with your hands and combine with onion , sugar, vinegar and bay leaves in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Parcook the rice, with 1 bay leaf, in boiling water for 15 minutes, strain and set aside.
- Parcook the lentils in boiling water for 7-8 minutes and set aside.
- While rice and lentils are cooking, heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add oil, onion, carrots and celery. Cook for 3 minutes and add eggplant. Cook for a few minutes more. Vegetables should be tender, but not soft. Stir in thyme.
- Combine vegetable mixture, rice (bay leaf removed), and lentils in a large bowl.
- Bring a pot of water to boil and add cabbage leaves. Let boil for 10-15 seconds, remove carefully and transfer to a bowl with cold water.
- In a pan, ladle a small amount of tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. One by one, add ⅓ cup of rice mixture to the center of each cabbage leaf. To roll up, take side closest to you and fold to cover mixture; fold sides in; continue rolling until the filling is all tucked in. Place seam-side down in pan.
- Cover with remaining tomato sauce and place in oven for 30 minutes.