In Finnish cuisine, there is a series of laatikkos, aka casserole dishes: porkkana / carrot, peruna / potato, lanttu / rutabaga… and this one right here, cabbage casserole, with ground meat and rice. I knew about this grand “laatikko family” but I never ate any, until I made the first one today.
I was not at all planning to cook this today but I felt this weird urge to eat cabbage (slightly strange, right? who craves for cabbage really??) and decided to work on my first laatikko.
As someone who normally does not mix meat and vegetables and who in fact does not eat meat much, this might have been a strange choice; not so much the cabbage part but to cook it with meat. However, the dish reminds me a lot of Turkish cabbage dish “Kapuska”. It is cabbage stew cooked in different ways, and sometimes with ground meat. The difference, though, is that this one is baked in the oven after cooking each element slightly and separately.
The recipe is simple. It looks like too much work, but actually it isn’t, since each step is made quite fast. Then after you put the dish in the oven, you sit down and relax… The result? OH-MY… It is absolutely DELICIOUS! It is slightly crusty on top, but soft, juicy and rich at the base.. And of course, as many other things Finnish, you add – if you want – some lingonberries on top, and the result is an ABSOLUTE FEAST inside your mouth.
I had laatikkogasm tonight! I strongly recommend you too.. Next, I will try lanttulaatikko. Yum.
Difficulty: ★☆☆ (Easy)
(serves 4-6, in an oven dish with 20x30cm dimensions)(adapted from maku.fi)
4 dl. water in room temperature
1/2 tsp and 1 tsp salt, divided
1.5 dl. rice porridge
1 kg. cabbage
1 tbsp and a splash of olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
400 gr. ground beef (I used meat, you can use pork-beef combo)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp syrup
4 dl. broth (I used vegetable broth, but you can use meat or chicken broth)
To serve (optional, but I do recommend)
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. In a medium pan, put water and 1/2 tsp salt, stir a little and put on medium high heat. When it starts boiling, put rice and cook on medium heat just until the rice absorbs almost all the water. Take away from the heat and put aside.
3. Cut cabbage in strips and put aside.
4. In a medium pan, put a splash of olive oil and warm it on medium high heat for about a minute. Add onion and sauté for half a minute. Add ground meat and cook stirring. When the meat colour changes to “cooked brown”, add 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1 tsp marjoram. Give it a final mix and take away from the heat, put aside.
5. In a medium pot, put 1 tbsp olive oil and warm it on medium heat for half a minute. Add cabbage and stir a little. Close the lid of the pot and cook the cabbage just until it gets soft, for about 5-8 minutes. I added about 1 dl. warm water so that the cabbage does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Stir cabbage frequently to prevent from burning. When it gets soft, add syrup, stir a little more and take away from the heat.
6. Mix onion/meat, rice and cabbage.
7. Transfer the mixture to your oven dish. Pour 4 dl. broth over the mixture. Put in the oven, in medium rack and bake for about 1 hour, until it gets fully cooked and gets crusty on top. If it gets too crusty earlier than 1 hour, you can cover top of the dish with aluminium foil. When it is ready, take out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Serve with lingonberries (optional). Enjoy!