Eric Akis: Cabbage rolled into a hearty soup

Eric Akis

If you have a craving for cabbage rolls, but don’t have time to make them, shorten the preparation process and make a fairly simple soup that tastes like them.

In today’s recipe, ingredients used to make cabbage rolls are combined in a pot and simmered, rather than being rolled up and baked.

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The process begins by browning ground beef, which is often added to cabbage rolls. Excess fat is drained and it’s further cooked with diced onions and minced garlic.

Tomatoes, sauce and paste are then added, along with cabbage, of course. And because it’s a soup, stock is added to the pot, along with flavourings.

The mixture is then simmered until the cabbage is tender. At that point, cooked rice — another item you would use to fill cabbage rolls — is mixed into the soup and heated through.

You end up with a tasty, thick and hearty soup you can serve as a main course for lunch or dinner with slices of dark rye bread. You’ll also have a soup stocked with nutritious cabbage, a low-calorie source of minerals, fibre and vitamins A, C, K and B.

I added the rice at the end of cooking, because I didn’t want it to overcook and become soggy. The rice can be white or brown, depending on your preference.

I also swirled some sliced green onions into the soup to add a bit of bright green colour. If you like the flavour of fresh dill, I’ve also given you the option to add some chopped dill, along with or instead of the green onions.

I used ground beef, but other types of ground meat or veggie ground will also work in this soup (see options at the end of the recipe for details).

This soup recipe yields eight generous servings and, once cooled to room temperature, will freeze well. So enjoy what you want now and package up and store the rest away until you want some again.

If you have any leftover cabbage after chopping what you need for the soup, wrap and refrigerate it until ready to add to another dish. Possibilities include thinly slicing it and turning it into coleslaw; chopping it and adding to a stir-fry; and cutting it into wedges and steaming, buttering and serving the cabbage as a side dish.

Hearty Cabbage-Roll-style Soup

This thick and rich main-course soup is stocked with ingredients one would use to make Cabbage rolls.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: About 40 minutes
Makes: eight (about 1 1/2 cup) servings

500 grams lean ground beef

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium carrot)

2 Tbsp tomato paste

4 cups cabbage, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (about 1/2 a small head, or 550 grams)

3 3/4 cups beef stock or broth, plus more if needed

1 cup vegetable juice, such as V-8 or Garden Cocktail

1 (28 oz./796 mL) can diced tomatoes (I used San Remo brand)

1 (14 oz./398 mL) can tomato sauce

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

1 bay leaf

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups cooked long grain white or brown rice (see Note)

2 green onions, each halved lengthwise, and then thinly sliced, crosswise

Set a large pot over medium, medium-high heat. Add beef and heat, stir and brown until entirely cooked through. Carefully drain excess fat/liquid from the pot.

Set pot back on the heat, add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook and stir three to four minutes. Mix in the tomato paste and cook and stir one more minute.

Add cabbage, 3 3/4 cups stock (or broth), vegetable juice, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf. Season the soup with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bring soup to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Adjust heat as needed to maintain that simmer. Simmer soup 20 to 25 minutes, or until cabbage is tender.

Mix in the rice and green onion and heat them though a few minutes. (The soup is meant to be thick, but if you would prefer it to be thinner, you could mix in a bit more stock.) Taste soup and season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and its ready to enjoy.

Note: 1/2 cup of raw rice, when cooked, should yield the amount needed here.

Eric’s options: If you like fresh dill, 2 Tbsp of it, chopped, could also be added to this soup along with, or in place of, the green onion. Instead of ground beef, try another type of ground meat in this soup, such as ground turkey or pork. If don’t eat meat, you could replace it with 340 grams of veggie ground round. It’s an already cooked product, so you won’t have to brown it. But you will have to cook it and the onions, carrot and garlic a few minutes in a bit of oil before finishing the soup as described in the recipe. You’ll also want to replace the beef stock (or broth) with vegetable stock (or broth).

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Times Colonist Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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