Finland Food: Kaalilaatikko - Cabbage Casserole

It's officially autumn here though I've definitely felt it already a couple of weeks. The summer here in Finland is so short that you start to notice a certain crispness in the air already in August. The sun doesn't warm any so much and the light gets a certain red/orange hint to it as opposed to the brightness in July. Today we are having a traditional Finnish autumn day with light showers rain. The birch tree outside the kitchen has already started to get its autumn colours to some of its branches.

One of the foods I always start to crave for when the autumn sets in is cabbage casserole. Here is my version of this Finnish home cooking classic.

Cabbage casserole (serves 4-6)

1 kg cabbage
400 g ground beef or pork
1-2 onions
2 Tbsp butter (or margarine)
130 g (appr. 1.5-2 dl) brown rice (uncooked)
appr. 5 dl beef stock (from a cube is fine)

white pepper

Cut the cabbage into thin strips. Dice the onion. Saute the ground meat and season it with white pepper and salt. Saute the cabbage and onion lightly in butter (I have to do it in three portions, as the whole bunch just doesn't fit my frying pan). Mix the sauteed ingredients with uncooked rice in an oven-proof dish and add appr. 5 dl beef stock. Bake at 175 °C for one hour.

You may have to add more liquid depending on the form of your dish. I usually add at least 3 dl of boiling water during the cooking. If the cabbage starts to turn dark brown on the surface, mix the bits in the casserole to prevent them from burning. The finished casserole is drier than with some other recipes, but that's how I like it. If you don't like it that dry, add more beef stock in the beginning or cover the dish with a foil. Optional: serve with lingonberry jam or mashed lingonberries sweetened with a hint of sugar.

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