Here in Turkey cabbages or lahana feature bigtime in winter. Look at this laden stall in my local Istanbul market in Selami Çeşme. Not only is the number of them impressive but their size is too. Have you ever seen such enormous cabbages? When buying, you should look for firm heavy ones and avoid any that have been cut as some of the nutritional value will have been lost. Yes, cabbages are a rich source of Vitamin C, fibre, iron, calcium, and potassium so not to be sniffed at. A nice fresh cabbage will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks in a plastic bag.
Last week when I was at this very stall, I overheard a woman say to the man that she wanted a good one because she was going to make kapuska which is a traditional Turkish dish although it doesn’t sound it. Because I wanted to photograph the stall, I thought I’d better buy one too. In fact, I bought a modest half cabbage and I thought to myself why don’t I make kapuska ? And so today I did.
Ingredients for Kapuska with Rice
1 medium cabbage/lahana
3 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp rice, rinsed
1 tbsp tomato paste/domates salçası
1 tbsp red pepper paste/biber salçası
1 chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp thyme/kekik
2 litres water
§ Peel off the coarse outer leaves of the cabbage and discard. Cut the remaining cabbage into chunks and wash.
§ You will need a large saucepan. Chop onion and garlic. Saute in a little olive oil for 3-4 mins. Add cabbage and saute for a further 5 mins. Add Salt and Pepper.
§ Add both tomato and pepper pastes, the chilli, thyme, and rice. Gently mix together. Add the water.
1. NB This recipe is for 1 cabbage. I used my half and this has made more than enough for 4 people. I simply halved all the ingredients above and it worked beautifully. I made it earlier in the day and I am sure it will taste even better now.
2. Check the seasoning carefully. It needs salt!
3. Kapuska has many versions: with meat, rice or bulgur, or with beans. This is only one.
4. Turkish tomato and pepper pastes are delicious. I could eat them straight out of the jar with a spoon! If you can’t find the pepper one, don’t worry, just use a little more of the tomato paste.
One more word about cabbage which I found by chance on http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/ :
'May the leaves of your cabbage always be free from worms.'I liked those!
'It's no use boiling your cabbage twice.'