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Passport & Plate - Croatian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls - Sarma

Croatia | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | 3 photos

For the cabbage rolls:
1500 g sauerkraut (the whole head)
500 g ground beef
500 g ground pork
200 g ground bacon
2 eggs
15 g salt
10 g black pepper (powder)
150 g onions
125 g rice
300 g sauerkraut (sliced)
500 g pork ribs (smoked and dried)
300 g bacon (dried, smoked)
5 g lard
3 g flour
2 g paprika (red, dried)
4 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons Vegeta

For the sauce:
1 L low salt chicken stock (or water)
1 can crushed tomatoes
400g smoked speck, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
a little extra stock or water


How to prepare this recipe
1. To make the meat stuffing, combine the pork, veal, rice, garlic, vegeta, pepper (or chilli flakes) and parsley with your hands until well mixed.
2. Take one leaf of cabbage and cut it in half through the middle rib. Place a couple of tablespoons of the meat mixture on one edge of the leaf and roll into a parcel, tucking in the edges as you go. Repeat until you’ve used all the cabbage and the stuffing
3. Place each roll into a large pot or baking dish, packing them in tightly together. Take slices of speck and wedge these between the cabbage rolls. Pour the stock and crushed tomatoes over the rolls. There needs to be enough liquid to completely submerge all the cabbage roll, so add more water if necessary.
4. Cover with a tight fitting lid or foil and bake at 160 degrees celsius for 2 hours. Check half way through the cooking time. You may need to top up with a little more water to keep it moist.
5. Place the oil, garlic, paprika and flour in a small frying pan over medium heat,. Cook it for 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour and then add enough water to bring it to a thick cream consistency.
6. Pour this mixture into the sarma liquid and stir gently. Immediately the sauce will thicken. Bake, covered, for a further 20 minutes.
7. Remove the sarma from the oven and let it rest for about half an hour, then serve with mashed potato.


The story behind this recipe
The recipe I send you is very special to me because based on it I cooked my first self made meal. I love it because it reminds me of the beginnings of my big passion – cooking. My mother cooked every day and the taste of her food was in my opinion unchallenged. So I actually felt never the urge to cook by myself. However, my other big passion, travelling changed this view. A few years ago I went to a youth conference in Cyprus. All applicants were stationed far outside the city. My hotel was nice but it had an awful restaurant and around were no real supermarkets, just a few farmers shops.So I had three choices: starve to death, eat low quality food or try to use this super fresh ingredients that were available at the farmers shops to create something on my own. One of our colleagues had an apartment.Therefore I had a place to cook, the fresh ingredients were just around the corner and enough of my colleagues shared my desire to eat something better than the every day mashed potatoes.The only thing missing was a recipe and instructions. And as I bragged how good of a cook my mother was, it was decided that she would be the one to give me online Skype instructions for my very first self made dinner. The recipe was found very fast. We had to combine all ingredients we could get our hands on: fresh meet and vegetables from the framers market, the combined spices that my colleagues brought with them, some rice a colleague had left from his last travel... All this together could be combined in just one traditional Croatian recipe -Sarme. The rest of the day we spend together in the small kitchen cooking under the supervision of my mother who was challenged to her limits with our chaotic group. In the end however, we had the best dinner ever and new friendships' were created which last till today.
All in all this experience was a defining moment for me as I realized that cooking is a beautiful way to connect with people, make new friends and make the ones we love happy.

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