Fairytale of New York

Cabbage Rolls

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For an entire month, every year our ears are bombarded with music only acceptable at Christmas time. Personally, I love Christmas music, but how many times can you listen to Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls before it just sounds exhausting. I currently have 346 songs on my Spotify Christmas playlist. And yes, some of those are the same songs covered by different artists. Also, soundtracks from movies such as Home Alone (John Williams) and Elf (John Debney) are also included. I told you, I love Christmas music. The problem with Christmas music is we play it to death each year and replay it all over again the following year and so on. After the first couple times of hearing those classic tunes, it just becomes part of the holiday obligation. However, for me there’s one song I never tire of. I love it in July as much as I love it in December. That song is Fairytale of New York by The Pogues. Fairytale of New York is a beautifully composed Irish folk song about a broken hearted man spending his Christmas in a drunk tank and reflecting on his life thus far. For me, the song is a reminder that Christmas isn’t the happiest time for everyone, but it’s about finding hope within our struggles and moving on, reminiscent of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”.

Here’s another dish to add to my list of Christmas Eve childhood classics. Cabbage rolls are often the unsung hero of many buffets and potlucks. We approach them as a vegetable dish, always second to the main protein, be it ham or turkey or roast beef. Then we cut into it and we see the medley of minced meats, vegetables and rice. Wow! You’ve just cut into an entire meal rolled up in a single piece of cabbage. And if we’re lucky, those packed tubes are so insanely tasty we forget about everything else on our plate. If not, then that bland cabbage roll just becomes white noise in the background. Sort of like Christmas music.

Though there’s a zillion recipes for cabbage rolls out there, this recipe is my Fairytale of New York. On the surface, just another Christmas dish, but on the inside, there’s depth and intensity, but most of all it’s linked to some very meaningful memories. This particular recipe isn’t the same one I grew up with, but I wish I had.

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*IMPORTANT NOTE: Prepping the cabbage: it’s best to use 2 heads of cabbage. First, core the cabbage then fill the cavity with salt. Place the heads in a large stock pot or bucket. Fill with water to cover the cabbage and add 1 cup of white vinegar. Cover and place in a cool room for 48 hours or up to 7 days. This will pickle the cabbage, giving it a very nice flavor. If time is an issue, you can place a head of cabbage in boiling water and simply remove each leaf as it cooks and loosens, but you will miss out on a much nicer taste.

cabbage rolls

Cabbage Roll Filling

  • Servings: 12-16 Cabbage Rolls
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 500g ground pork
  • 300g ground beef
  • 100g bacon, finely chopped or minced in with the pork
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 16 large cabbage leaves (see important note* below)
  • 2 cups prepared long-grain rice
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp sweet or Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, fry the pork, beef, and bacon until browned.

2. Add the onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper and carrot and cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Break up the bouillon cube and add to the meat. Then add the tomato paste, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring for another 5 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the cooked rice. Cool mixture completely before using.

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Paprika Ragu

  • Servings: Makes about 2 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 25-50g Serrano ham, diced
  • 210g bottle of roasted red bell pepper in oil
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan over med-high heat, add 1/4 cup of oil from the bottle of roasted bell peppers. Then add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Whisk in the water.

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3. Now add the bouillon cube, bay leaves, diced bell peppers, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Rolling and Baking the Cabbage Rolls:

1. Take a leaf of cabbage and cut out the thick stem.

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2. Put about ½ cup of filling into the center of the leaf.

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3. With the thickest part of the leaf facing you, fold the sides into the center. Then, roll the thick end around the filling and tightly roll the rest of the way up. Careful not to rip the leaf.

4. Place seam-side down into an oiled roasting pan. Continue until you have 16 cabbage rolls, or until the roasting pan is filled snugly.

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5. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls and sprinkle with pieces of Serrano ham. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour at 180°C.

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6. Remove from oven and serve hot.

cabbage rolls910Христос се роди !

16 thoughts on “Fairytale of New York

  1. How do you have the time to do all of this, before Christmas. I haven’t even finished buying my toddler’s gifts, let alone had the time to cook lots and blog about it. You are so organised!

    There is a very similar recipe to this in The River Cottage’s Veg book, have you heard of The River Cottage? Anyway, I love the presentation, well done. Everything you’ve made recently is superb xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I forgot to say, I also love Christmas music, but I’m more of the classic/jazz/blues side of it, Joni Mitchell’s River being my all time fave. Is that cheating?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It looks more organized than it really is. The truth is, since this is my first Christmas blogging, I decided to write about dishes that were part of my childhood Christmases. But now I live in Norway where I’ve taken on new traditions and actually use very little time preparing for Christmas. Everything I’ve posted recently have just been dinners and treats for my family. Nothing to do with Christmas other than writing about it and taking my wife and son down memory lane of Christmases past. Have a wonderful Christmas!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The ones I ate in my childhood were more of a bland knock-off of the eastern European cabbage rolls. I wanted to revisit some of those more authentic flavors for this recipe, which I’m glad I did. They were better than any cabbage roll I remember growing up with.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m very fond of my family’s recipe for cabbage rolls and usually others don’t stand up against them, but these sound great. I will definitely have to try them, though they’ll likely have to wait until after the craziness of the holiday has passed. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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