An old Norwegian recipe gets a lift
You won’t miss the meat in this kålruletter
In my constant quest of veganizing the Norwegian cuisine, I’m updating an old, classic Norwegian recipe called “kålruletter” or “kålruller,” which in the traditional way, are Savoy cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork and baked in the oven, served with a white, creamy sauce. My version has cooked rice, lentils, sauteed shallots, garlic, and red bell pepper seasoned with freshly ground nutmeg and spiced paprika. I have to say… my version is a lot more flavorful—of course I’m not biased at all! I still challenge you to try my version, as I feel it’s packed with deep, layered flavors from all the different ingredients and also incredibly satisfying.
For those hard core old schoolers, you can check out my old post about kålruller at arcticgrub.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/kalruletter-a-forgotten-spring-classic. Even if you prefer the vegetarian version, you can get some additional information about the dish and its background there.
According to World’s Healthiest Foods, “cabbage has a long history of use both as a food and a medicine. It was developed from wild cabbage, a vegetable that was closer in appearance to collards and kale since it was composed of leaves that did not form a head.
“It is thought that wild cabbage was brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. It was grown in Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations that held it in high regard as a general panacea capable of treating a host of health conditions.
“While it’s unclear when and where the headed cabbage that we know today was developed, cultivation of cabbage spread across northern Europe into Germany, Poland, and Russia, where it became a very popular vegetable in local food cultures. The Italians are credited with developing the Savoy cabbage.”
The same source tells us that cabbage can provide some cholesterol-lowering benefits if you cook it by steaming (as in the first step of this recipe). The fiber-related components in cabbage do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, and has great antioxidant-related properties, which is partly responsible for its cancer prevention benefits.
If you have not been convinced yet by the amazing health benefits of cabbage (and vegetables in general), then at least try this recipe for its amazing flavor! The meat will not be missed, I promise! 🙂
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white rice
1/2 cup green lentils
3-4 shallots, sliced thin
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. vegetable bouillon powder
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 head of Savoy cabbage, whole leaves picked apart
1 cup vegetable broth
Oil an ovenproof dish that will fit eight to 10 rolled-up cabbage leaves, and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Rinse the rice and the lentils separately. In two different small pots, cook the rice and lentils with 1 1/2 cups of water each for about 15-20 minutes until done. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic, and bell peppers and season with salt. Saute for five to seven minutes, then add nutmeg and paprika, saute for another 30-40 seconds until fragrant. Add the rolled oats and toasted walnuts, and saute for another minute.
Add the lentils, rice, and onion mixture in a food processor along with bouillon powder and the 1/3 cup of water and pulse a few times until a rough farce is formed. Place in a bowl and place in fridge while you prepare the cabbage leaves.
In a large pot, bring a generous amount of salted water to a boil. Place the separated cabbage leaves in the water, and simmer for three to four minutes, until just starting to soften. Be careful not to overcook, as you want the vibrant color of the cabbage to remain. Scoop the leaves out of the water and place on clean dish towels so the water dries off.
Place one big spoonful of the lentil rice filling into each cabbage leaf, and roll up like a spring roll.
Place the stuffed roll with the seam down into the prepared ovenproof dish. Fill with the vegetable broth; it should only cover the bottom of the pan.
Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, the cabbage rolls should be golden brown on top.
Serve with potatoes and bechamel sauce (recipe for vegan sauce at arcticgrub.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/kalruletter-an-old-norwegian-recipe-gets-a-lift).
Sunny Gandara has over 15 years experience in marketing and PR, both in the music and beverage industry. In 2008 she founded her own company, Fork and Glass, a food and wine event and consulting company, located in the Hudson Valley of New York. She now focuses on education, giving seminars and classes to private and corporate groups. Sunny, a native of Norway, is a professionally trained cook and holds a diploma in Wines & Spirits from the WSET.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 13, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.