3.330 P31bO/Sweden(30): Kåldolmar [includes recipe]

-Cycle 3, Item 330-
30 (Sat) November 2012

P31bO/Sweden(30): Kåldolmar [includes recipe]


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and Nanny 8

Sweden is the 30th consecutive country to be featured in the on-going Project 31 By Origin (see previously 3.329 P31bO/Morocco(29): Moroccan Chicken Sandwich).

Kåldolmar is a Swedish cabbage roll.  Typically stuffed with rice and meat (e.g., pork and/or beef), it's usually served with lingonberry jam and/or gravy.  As the lingonberry jam would suggest, it's a Swedish dish.  As the name of the dish may suggest, it was derived from the Turkish dolma, a broad category of stuffed vegetable dishes (see Wikipedia on dolma).  Or so the story goes, upon the return of King Charles XII to Sweden in 1711 after spending 2 years exiled in the Ottoman Empire, he was accompanied by a band of merry Turks, who introduced their beloved stuffing technique to the local Swedes during their stay.  In fact, every November 30, the day that the king died in 1718, Sweden celebrates Kåldomens Dag ("Day of the Cabbage Roll") to "hail the multifaceted Swedish cultural heritage involving national symbols with immigrant background" (see Wikipedia on cabbage roll).

Our local convenience store just happened to have Absolut.

Following my first attempt at Swedish cuisine (see 3.291 Swedish Meatballs), I was determined to try something more ambitious for P31bO/Sweden.  When I proposed kåldolmar to reader Gustaf from Sweden, he replied:

Actually, if you would be able to find a good recipe and make it, that would be truly amazing. Kåldolmar is a dish that most Swedes at least had in school a couple of times or maybe also at lunch restaurants (or at some fancy restaurant specializing in Swedish traditional dishes). But very few have made it at home. I doubt you can buy it "premade" in the store as well.  I really like it, but haven't had it in a while. Hearing it is a little bit of a hassle to make have kept me from actually getting around to making it myself. I can actually only think of one friend who I know have made it at his or her home...

And since I wanted the official finale of P31bO to be something special, significant, substantial, kåldolmar fit the bill perfectly, especially with Kåldomens Dag happening to fall on the very day.

If I'd had lingonberry jam, this would've been totally legit.

Though lacking a frame of reference, I'd humbly suggest that the kåldolmar turned out quite well.  I developed my own recipe, an amalgamation of several that I found on the internet.  The filling of ground beef and milk-braised rice was lusciously soft and rich, as was the sauce of beef broth and cream, all kept in balance by the cabbage leaf's sweet austerity.  A touch of ground allspice gave the dish a subtle yet unmistakable hint of flavor that, whether accurate or not, I've come to associate with Swedish cuisine.  In fact, the kåldolmar was very similar to the meatballs, only more sophisticated.  I thought that the sauce might benefit with a roux or some corn starch to thicken it up, but the wife preferred it thin, like a soup.  Indeed, it paired very well with a baguette.  While the wife was gracious enough to give the dish a 4.0, I'll leave it at 3.5.


Recipe for Kåldolmar
(serves 4)

[note: the measurements below were made, adjusted, and recorded during the process; 
as yet, the recipe hasn't been tested.]

1 large head (about 1.5 kg) cabbage
2 liters water (or enough to submerge the cabbage in a stockpot)
1 tbsp salt

1/4 cup rice
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk

300 g ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp ground allspice (or less, according to preference)

2 tbsp butter (or as needed)
1 cup canned beef broth (or enough to cover the rolls when combined in equal proportion with water, as described in step 10 below) (stock would do, but then more seasoning would be required in the end)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup cream
salt to taste

1. Cut away the cabbage core.

2. Fill a large stockpot with the first portion of water and salt, bring to a boil, and parboil the cabbage just until the large outer leaves begin to soften (about 2-3 minutes).

3. Separate the outer leaves (about 16), rinse them under cold water, and pat them dry.

4. Slice off the remaining spine running down the center of each leaf and trim the leaf into a semicircle. 

5. In a saucepan over low heat, stir the rice with the water until most of the water has been absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

6. Add the milk and continue to stir until the rice is soft and the mix achieves the consistency of porridge (about 15-20 minutes).

7. Add the rice to the beef along with the seasonings and combine thoroughly.

8. Spread 1.5 tablespoons of the filling on each leaf, fold in the sides, roll it up from the base, and secure the top edge of the leaf to the main body of the roll with a toothpick (sorry that I can't provide better photos, but I had some difficulty at this stage and wasted several leafs trying to master the rolling technique, which I never really did, so I wasn't in a frame of mind to take pictures at the time) (this also resulted in a handful of leftover filling, enough for about 4 rolls, though my pan wouldn't have been able to accommodate any more rolls anyway).

My pan was big enough for about 16-18 rolls.

9. Working in batches, saute the rolls with butter in a pan over low-medium heat until they begin to brown (about 1-2 minutes per side).  

10. In a deep-sided saute pan, arrange the rolls in a single layer (toothpick side up) and add the beef broth and water until the liquid comes to the top of the rolls.

11. Cover and simmer until the rolls are completely soft (about 20-25 minutes).  

12. Remove from the heat and add the cream and white pepper, as well as additional salt to taste.

13. Serve with bread and a fat bottle of chilled Swedish vodka.


His second "more aesthetically pleasing" presentation.

Meanwhile, back in Sweden, Gustaf was also getting busy.  This time, he attempted bibimbap (see most recently 3.299 Bibimbap), seemingly a much more ambitious undertaking than his first offering of Spam & Fried Egg & Kimchi with Steamed Rice, which could be considered the ultimate quick-fix Korean meal, except that Gustaf had pickled his own kimchi that time, entirely from scratch, making it instead the ultimate overachievement in Korean cooking.  The cross-culinary exchange between Gustaf in Sweden and me in Korea has been one of the most gratifying experiences arising from the blog to date--to think that I might be encouraging/assisting/inspiring someone in some way to cook something in some other country on the other side of the planet blows my mind.  He's already sent photos of a third meal, so I'll be doing Swedish again in the near future, quid pro quo.  Until then, here are Gustaf's notes and photos of his kickass bibimbap.

Looks perfect (except the carrots and cucumbers do seem a bit too thick).

The namul [clockwise from bottom right]: 

1. Zuccini.  Thinly sliced, sauted with a pinch of salt.  I should've sliced them much thinner, but didn't feel for it tonight... 

2. Mushrooms. Both shittake mushrooms and champignon mushrooms (or maybe the correct is "meadow mushrooms." Anyway, the shiitake were sdamn expensive 
I didn't want to buy too much of them.  The mushrooms were sauted with vegetable oil and some soy sauce 
plus sugar for a couple of minutes. 

3. Carrots, which I should've sliced much much much thinner, but I just didn't feel for spending so much 
time on it. I've never properly learn how to slice something really thinly (is it called "julienning"?).  I fried 
them quickly with some vegetable oil.  

4. Cucumbers, marinated with 고추가루, vinegar and salt.  

5. Spinach, marinated in just some sesame oil and salt.

The original plating looks just as good.

After preparing the namul, I cooked for rice and fried two eggs. I then assembled the dish with all of the 
above ingredients plus 고추장.  I really wished I would have had a proper pot, a 돌솥. The bowl I used 
was to small for me to properly mix the ingredients without spilling some stuff outside.....

I tasted pretty much as I remember it, probably because the 고추장 supplied a major part of the taste of 
the dish... The rice felt kinda off, probably because I used rice from Thailand, which I guess is of a different 
type than the one in Korea. 

Overall it wasn't that difficult to make, except the slicing of the carrots and the zuccinis. Plus that I wish 
would've had a 돌솥. A 돌솥 is definitely going to be on my shopping list next time I go to Korea! Maybe I 
should've added some sesame oil on everything, but since the recipe I followed for most of the namuls (the 
Swedish language Korean cooking book which I also used for making my own kimchi) didn't tell me to add
it, plus that sesame oil was already present in a lot of the namuls, I didn't feel the need to add it. 

(but see how those cucumbers and carrots stand out and disrupt the harmony?).