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Cabbage Rolls

Aunty Myrna’s Cabbage Rolls

A Monday Morning Cooking Club Recipe for Sukkot

The Jewish festival of Sukkot is coming up this week, a time that celebrates the harvest. Lots of fruit, vegetables and grains are consumed, and many consider it the perfect time to make stuffed foods which signify a bountiful harvest. Think kreplach (aka Jewish ravioli, top pic) and stuffed capsiscums, apple pies (middle pic) and rolled strudels (bottom pic).

These fabulous Monday Morning Cooking Club cabbage rolls fit the bill perfectly – a do-ahead and heartwarming recipe from the old world. A true heirloom from my late Aunty Myrna. This recipe was first published in The Feast Goes On.

The cabbage roll recipe is just below, and you will find the other recipes in our books, as follows:
Kreplach, Monday Morning Cooking Club p.175
Yolan’s Apple Pie, The Feast Goes On p.
Cela’s Apple Strudel, Monday Morning Cooking Club p. 194
Polish Apple Strudel. It’s Always About the Food, p. 270

AUNTY MYRNA'S CABBAGE ROLLS
This is home cooking at its most heartwarming. I imagine the addition of tomato soup was introduced in Australia, when she tried to replicate the flavours of her own childhood. The flavours do improve if allowed to sit in the fridge for a couple of days.
Servings
8serves
Servings
8serves
Ingredients
Servings: serves
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: serves
Units:
Instructions
  1. Start this recipe at least one day before serving, as the flavours develop overnight.
  2. Core the cabbage and place in a large pot of cold water so that the cabbage is fully submerged. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the stovetop and allow to cool in the water. Remove when cool, separate the leaves and cut out the thick stalks with a knife.
  3. To make the sauce, you will need a large saucepan. Fry the onion in the oil over low heat until soft, around 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Set aside until needed.
  4. To make the filling, put the beef in a medium sized bowl. On a chopping board, using the back of a knife, press the garlic with the salt to form a paste. Add to the beef, along with the rice, onion and pepper. Season generously. Add the eggs and combine.
  5. To make the parcels, lay 1/4 cup of the filling in an oblong shape in the centre of a cabbage leaf. Fold in the ends and then roll up like a parcel. Place into the sauce, seam side down. Continue with all the filling and cabbage leaves, placing the rolls snugly side by side in the sauce. Any unused or torn leaves can be rolled up and stuffed into the gaps in the pan. Make sure all the rolls are covered with sauce.
  6. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 3 hours, basting from time to time. If the cabbage rolls start to dry out, add more water to cover.
  7. Place in the refrigerator when cool and reheat to serve the next day.
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The Story of Aunty Myrna

My food inspiration stems from my Bubba (grandmother) Shendel but it is one of her daughters who inspires me the most. Aunty Myrna, my father’s older sister who passed away in 2004, was a horserace-loving, cigarette smoking, platinum blonde with a heart bigger than any. Polish-born, she immigrated to Melbourne as a young child in the 30s with my father and their family. She had a wonderful broad Australian ‘Carlton’ accent with just a hint of eastern Europe.

After Myrna married, she and husband Sol ran a tiny shop – part newsagent and part delicatessen – where truck drivers lined up for her superb homemade European delicacies. Sitting at her vinyl-clothed kitchen table with the ‘wireless’ on and the form guide open, she would force-feed me rugelach, tiny sultana strudels, butter chiffon.

I regret that my serious interest in her recipes came too late. Many of them are now lost and will never be made again. I miss her greatly but it is through the few recipes I did write down that she now stands beside me in my kitchen, beaming. And when I make her amazing cabbage rolls for my family, Aunty Myrna joins us at the table.

This is a pic (from L to R) of me, my sister in law Jo and Aunty Myrna from 2003.

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