I was given a wonderful book by a lady who collected rare, historical cookbooks, The Delectable Past by Esther Aresty. One of her books was Royal Cookery, by one of the royal chefs, Patrick Lamb. It was published in 1710 and in those days there was nary a thought of British cuisine as being a thing of scorn and derision. Lamb felt sorry for foreigners, who, he thought must

“lament their own barrenness whenever they reflected on the Flesh-pots they left behind them. For the want of which substantial and wholesome plenty, the Quelque Chose of France, and the Vines of Italy make no better amends than the surfeits and fevers they usually bring on such as deal in them.”

Lamb loved surprises, mostly in the form of dishes of one kind or another that were stuffed. One of his ideas was to cover minced chicken in chopped meat, and shape it to resemble a roll of bread.

This recipe is based, loosely, on a more practical dish of stuffed cabbage leaves, Forc’d cabbage. Lamb used minced veal, but post-Christmas I find I have a surfeit of ham so I have substituted ham for veal, and some soaked raisins for his onion. I’ve also used mulled wine instead of stock. I think all my substitutions are an improvement.

Certainly the dish went down well with one of the Saucy Dressings’ tasters commenting, “this is one of those great dishes where every mouthful tastes different”. I think that’s largely down to the stale bread; some – that which is mixed in well with the rest of the moist stuffing – remains soft, while any sticking out goes crispy.

This is a very good way of using up leftover ham… bread… cheese.

 

Recipe for forc’d cabbage stuffed with ham and other goodies

 

For four

 

  • 1 small savoy cabbage (or an ordinary cabbage)
  • ¼ cup/60ml/4 tbsps walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1½ cups grated cheese (or a mix of cream cheese and grated cheese would be even better. If you have any leftover cream you could add that in too)
  • 250g/8 oz ham
  • 100g crusty stale bread
  • 240 ml/1 cup mulled wine…or marsala….or red vermouth, plus a bit more for soaking the raisins
  • ½ cup of raisins, soaked in mulled wine… or marsala…or red vermouth
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg…all to taste
  • Cumin or caraway seeds, dry-fried and crushed – optional

 

  1. Measure out half a cup of raisins and top up with mulled wine – leave to soak as long as possible
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  3. Take four leaves carefully off the outside of the cabbage and blanch in boiling water for a maximum of two minutes.
  4. Shred the rest of the cabbage and lay on the bottom of a shallow heatproof dish
  5. Season, and pour over the walnut oil
  6. Cube the ham and the bread (keeping the crust) and put into a large mixing bowl
  7. Add the mulled wine (or equivalent), the mustard, pepper, nutmeg, most of the grated cheese, and the soaked raisins
  8. Stuff the four cabbage leaves loosely with the mixture and lay on the bed of cabbage
  9. Scatter the remainder of the stuffing around the parcels
  10. Bake for about fifteen minutes, scattering over the remaining grated cheese about halfway into the cooking

 

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