Sunny and crisp autumn days are the best thing I know - they take me back to my childhood in Finland where we would harvest the potatoes or pick the berries and the mushrooms in the forests. Even here in Australia, the crisp autumn air is such a welcoming change after the hot summer months.
I was fortunate to spent another gorgeous day in the countryside earlier this week - I could pick mandarins and limes off the trees, gather fresh herbs from the garden and buy gorgeous fresh figs and tomatoes straight from the farm. It was a beautiful day, my spirits were high and I was full of inspiration when I unloaded my fresh produce onto my kitchen bench.
It is always at this time of the year when I start craving for cabbage - often it is cabbage salads, stews or rolls, all cooked in a similar way to my mum's back in Finland. Cabbage rolls and cabbage casserole have always been my favourite. Cooked with sweet dark syrup and served with tart lingonberry, they are a must-have dish every autumn.
My version of these traditional rolls is a vegetarian one. I've opted for a healthier brown rice, and instead of using normal white cabbage, I've used Savoy cabbage, which to me looks like a magnificent piece of art. Together with brown rice, I've used dried golden chanterelles, those beautiful mushrooms you would see at every market stall in Finland around August. They are luxurious and delicious and bring a wonderful earthy flavour to this dish. I've flavoured the filling with some of those beautiful herbs I got from the garden - thyme, rosemary and oregano, but you could use any dry or fresh herbs you have available.
Instead of lingonberry, I've made a thick tart sauce using frozen cranberries. I've sweetened the sauce with a tiny bit of honey and to me, this is a perfect companion to these hearty cabbage rolls. This is what autumn is all about.
Savoy cabbage rolls with golden chanterelle and brown rice filling
topped with cranberry sauce
(makes 12-15 rolls)
1 savoy cabbage, leaves removed
1 1/2 cups brown rice (medium grain), cooked
30g dried golden chanterelle, reconstituted
2 shallots (eschalots), finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of oregano
1 sprig of thyme
1 large free-range egg
freshly ground black pepper or ground white pepper
1 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp olive oil
1. To soften the leaves, bring a large pot of water to boil. Season the water with a pinch of sea salt.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a large square oven dish with some olive oil.
3. Boil the leaves in batches for 2-3 minutes until just softened. Dry the softened leaves on a clean tea towel. Thin the spines of the leaves by cutting them from the outside, be careful not to damage the leaf.
4. Sauté the shallots in a little olive oil until soft. Add roughly chopped chanterelles and fresh herbs and sauté for a further few minutes.
5. In a large bowl, mix the brown rice, shallot and mushroom mixture and the egg together. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Place 2-3 tablespoons of filling on each cabbage leaf and wrap into tight rolls. Arrange the rolls snugly into the oven dish.
7. In a small bowl, mix together the treacle and the olive oil. Drizzle the rolls with the mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes (scoop some of the liquid on the rolls half way through cooking).
For the cranberry sauce, place 250g slightly defrosted cranberries along with 100ml water into a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for a few minutes. Puree the berries with a stab mixer (or in a food processor) and sweeten with a tablespoon of (raw) honey. Serve the thick sauce with the cabbage rolls.