Cook the Veg Bag, Round 3: Cabaret Dumplings

It has been cold here. Not touch-of-chill, almost March cold, not a cold that can be dispelled with a cup of tea and a shrug. I mean needle cold, cold that makes you huff into your scarf and swear a little and hurry because the faster you move the better a chance you have of outpacing it. Cold, man. As I left the house the other morning, tiny white flakes spun down in front of me, so sparse and delicate I actually looked at the tree behind me to see if it was shedding early blossom. It wasn’t, it was just the tightening sky warning us off looking forward to spring just yet, without giving the satisfaction of real snow.

I went to the cabaret that night with friends, and wore some fishnets underneath my sober black library skirt, because who can resist trying to dress a little bit in keeping with the action on the stage? Cabaret always feels like a conspiracy of coolness to me, knowing that you at a table sipping and watching in respectful quiet (as the sign on the door says: ‘Please respect our perfomers and SHUT THE FUCK UP!’) could be called on to be a stammering prop to the performers. I once went with a cabaret novice to a particularly rowdy night in north London, where within twenty minutes she had been hit by a flying glitter heel, inadvertently kicked off by the house drag queen. I wouldn’t presume to glitter heels or cigarette holders, but fishnet stockings don’t raise too many eyebrows in the reading rooms. They’re fun for a saucy hit of not-quite coverage, defining the shape of your leg and making it so you’re not quite unclothed. They are functionally useless for keeping out the cold, though, and the surface of my skin stung with the chill. After the show, I walked brisk and huddled with my friend to the bus stop, and boarded a bus home and, friends, do not tell the weird twin double act or the woman who threaded medical pipes through her nose or the amazing striptease artist who pretended to do her whole act drunk, wobbling with artless artfulness on six inch platforms, do not tell them I got distracted from them immediately by the late hour and the damn cold, and that by the time I was on the bus all I was thinking of was cabbage dumplings.

I had some large Savoy cabbage leaves, you may recall, and a good few onions and the previous night I cooked them up with a very old bag of sushi rice left over from times of previous conceit, and most of a tub of cottage cheese. I started off by setting the rice to steam, and slicing the onions into bows and frying them in a cast iron frying pan til they were brown and pliant. Once they were both cooked, I put the rice in the pan along with salt, pepper, and cottage cheese and stirred until the rice was shot through with savoury threads of onion, and so filling and good I had to stop myself eating it by the pillowy tablespoon.


Rice and onion

I picked out some of the small fragments of porcini mushroom from an open packet, and poured boiling water over to rehydrate them. After letting them soak for 10 minutes or so, I put the mushroom fragments in with the rice mix and added powdered Marigold bouillon to the liquid. With the cabbage leaces clean and unfurled, I spooned the rice mixture (helpfully clinging to itself) into each one, forcing a good amount in before folding the cabbage leaf around it. Here are the cabbage babies, plump and snugly tucked up:
I didn’t have any toothpicks or similar to seal them with, so they stayed open-ended where not packed in tight. Over these, I poured the hot mushroom stock from the porcini, so that it covered the dumplings with a little room to spare. They went into the oven for 45 minutes and came out sturdy, salty and perfect for a cold winter evening with a slash or two of chilli sauce.


I ate two bowlsful and there was still enough left over when I walked in off the night bus, legs slightly blue under my fishnets, to warm my hungry late night self.

That concludes the veg box cooking for last week. I put the potatoes to one side, because I’ll always find a use for potatoes before they go off. That left only the purple sprouting broccoli. As tempting as it is to boast that I did something exciting with that, it would be untrue: I steamed it all and ate it with two boiled eggs, half a can of anchovies and two slices of bread and butter, and it was perfect.

Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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