• a few green cabbage leaves
  • 4 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped or grated
  • 500 g sausage meat (or 2 whole sausages)
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 250 ml 15% cooking cream (or bechamel sauce)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 250 ml grated cheese
  • optional: 125 ml bread crumbs

Inspired by Bulgarian’s taste for cabbage, and potatoes, this dish combines them in a delicious gratin. This is the basic recipe I make.

Note once again that once you have adopted this recipe, you can make variations to your taste. Try it with finely chopped cabbage strips instead of whole leaves. Or with ground meat seasoned to your taste instead of sausage meat. You can add more vegetables into the meat preparation, or simply make more layers along with the potatoes, such as adding sweet potatoes too. If you prefer you can make a homemade bechamel sauce instead of using 15% cooking cream, add some white wine or simply modify the taste of your gratin by grating a variety of strong-tasting cheeses, such as emmental or gruyere.

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, boil about 1 l of water. Don’t add salt. Single out the green cabbage leaves and blanch them in the boiling water for about 10 minutes. As I use the outermost leaves from the head of cabbage, I take only 4, as they are big enough to make 1 layer per leaf in my gratin dish. If you choose to use a bigger gratin dish, or your cabbage head is small, blanch more than 4 leaves.
  2. After 10 minutes in the boiling water, take the cabbage leaves out and rinse them under cold running water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
  3. Chop the potatoes in rounds and plunge them in the pan of boiling water. Blanch potatoes for about 10 minutes as well, until they start getting tender. Remove and set aside.
  4. If using whole prepared sausages, I recommend you select a variety seasoned with fine herbs, which would contribute to the taste of your gratin. Also, it is recommended to pre-boil prepared sausages before use, so plunge them in the boiling water for about 10 minutes as well. If using ground meat or sausage meat instead of whole sausages, skip this step.
  5. In a frying pan, heat the butter. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and fry over medium heat until they become tender and transparent. Cut open the pre-boiled sausages and put the meat in the frying pan. Alternatively, you can use any type of ground meat that you would season to your taste. Fry the meat until it is well-cooked but not dry. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the herbs of your choice, such as dried basil or rosemary, but keep in mind that you don’t want your meat to taste too strong and overwhelming. When cooked, turn off the heat and sprinkle some fresh parsley all over.
  6. Finally prepare the cup of thick cooking cream, which I suggest one containing at least 15% fat, by heating it up a little over low heat and adding in it a pinch of nutmeg. If you don’t have readily available cooking cream, you can quickly whip up a not too thick bechamel sauce, using 50 g of melted butter, 50 g of flour that you would fry up in it, then adding slowly 500 ml of milk whipping energetically to avoid lumps, and adding the nutmeg at the end.
  7. Here is how to prepare the gratin. Start by buttering a round gratin dish. Then, you will make layers of the ingredients. Place a leaf of cabbage as the first layer in the dish. Then spread on it 1/3 of the prepared sausage meat. On the meat, place an even layer of potato rounds, top of with some black pepper and grated cheese. Then cover with another leaf of cabbage and repeat the previous steps.
  8. After the third layer, top off the gratin with the last leaf of cabbage, with black pepper and with the remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle some bread crumbs over the cheese and finish off by pouring the warm cooking cream (or bechamel) over the top. (If you choose to add white wine, this is when you would pour in some 150 ml of it as well, right before the cooking cream.) Make sure the liquid penetrates in all layers, and if not you can help it go down by making a few slits with the tip of a knife over the surface of the gratin.
  9. Preheat the oven at 200°C (400°F). Cover the gratin dish with a sheet of aluminum paper to prevent burning on the top and bake for about 40-60 minutes. You will recognize when it’s ready by the amazing smell. At the end you can remove the aluminum and bake for an extra 5 minutes, in order to get a nice golden crust on the top.

Cut and serve this gratin warm, while the cheese is still melted and stringy. You don’t need much on the side, as it is very tasty on its own. But remember, the best accompaniments for cabbage are Bulgarian favorites: dill and garlic. So a simple side of salad (cucumber, tomato, dill and garlic) will do the trick, but it would be best with a smooth yogurt salad like the Snejanka.