Stuffed spring cabbage with pork and chestnuts

Stuffed spring cabbage with pork and chestnuts

Real Food by Mike
Alan Benson

This is a great recipe to serve as a centrepiece. It looks very impressive turned out onto a plate and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. If time is of the essence, then a faster method is to blanch the cabbage leaves, spread them with the stuffing and roll the leaves up individually, securing them with string – or you can pack them tightly into an ovenproof dish so they can’t unravel. They can be cooked the same way but with little preparation and a third of the cooking time. In my opinion, however, good things take time.


Quantity Ingredient
1 large savoy cabbage
350g chestnuts, peeled
165g pancetta, left in large chunks
3 fresh bay leaves
15g fresh thyme, leaves picked
160g carrots, peeled and roughly diced
100g french shallots
400ml white wine
625ml chicken stock

Pork stuffing

Quantity Ingredient
375g button mushrooms, sliced
30g garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
90g butter
45ml milk
45g breadcrumbs
225g brown onions, finely chopped
1 handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1.125kg pork sausage, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
heart of the cabbage being used, shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten


  1. To prepare the cabbage, plunge it into boiling water and simmer slowly for 15 minutes. Lift it out carefully and drain on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  2. Place a clean tea towel on a work surface, then lay a large piece of muslin (cheesecloth) on top. Place the cabbage on top, stem side down. Slowly and gently open the cabbage from the top, like a flower. When you get to the heart, which is the size of a cricket ball, carefully remove it and finely shred it for the stuffing.
  3. For the stuffing, in a medium frying pan over high heat, sauté the mushrooms with the garlic in half the butter and cook until all of the liquid has reduced, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  4. In a separate large bowl, mix together the milk, breadcrumbs, onion, parsley and pork sausage.
  5. In a frying pan over medium heat, sauté the shredded cabbage heart in the remaining butter until tender. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
  6. Add the cooled mushrooms and cooled cabbage to the bowl with the sausage mince and egg, mixing well, adding the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. (At this point you can fry a ball of stuffing in a little olive oil to check the seasoning.)
  7. To stuff the cabbage, place a large cricket ball-sized lump of stuffing in the centre to replace the heart, and fold the leaves over the stuffing. Continue to pat a layer of stuffing in between each leaf and fold them back up. Do this so you have four layers of stuffing and three unstuffed layers of leaves around the outside to protect the cabbage while it cooks.
  8. The cabbage should now somewhat resemble its original form. Take the diagonal corners of the muslin and tie them together to encase the cabbage. Slip a spoon through the knot to make a handle.
  9. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  10. Put the chestnuts, pancetta, bay leaves and thyme in a deep, heavy-based ovenproof saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Place the cabbage bundle on top of the chestnuts, scatter with the carrot and shallots and pour over the wine and chicken stock. Cover with baking paper and put the lid on. Bake for 3 hours. Remove the cabbage from the pan and drain on a wire rack set over a tray.
  11. Simmer the cooking juices and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the cabbage into wedges and serve on a plate with a ladleful of juices.

Medicinal Benefit

  • Cabbage is a nutritional powerhouse. Its concentrations of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients make it effective for everything from improving mental function to general detoxification and regulating blood sugar. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and vitamin K help with blood clotting. Cabbage is particularly rich in sulfur, which can dry up acne, among other things, and is a key component of the protein called keratin, which hair, skin and nails are made of. Chestnuts contain monounsaturated fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin C and plenty of minerals, such as phosphorus, which not only builds healthy bones and teeth, but helps shuttle nutrients into and out of cells.
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