Green is good: a meal fit for St Patrick himself

This is Irish-Polish-Chinese fusion food – a reflection of Ireland today

Cabbage rolls with dillisk dipping sauce

Cabbage rolls with dillisk dipping sauce

 

I’m all for championing Irish food every day of the year but this St Patrick’s weekend in particular it’s time for cabbage to shine. Last week I took part in the Mountains to Sea Book festival in Dún Laoghaire and was talking all about food writing and what Irish food means to me.

What sprang to mind was the story of my great-grandmother in Ring, Co Waterford, cooking a huge pot of cabbage for her neighbours every Sunday after Mass. They would all stand around eating it from little saucers and exchanging village news as they warmed themselves with the salty cabbage. It may have been bacon water, but for poetic licence I will say it was seawater. It got me thinking about seaweed and cabbage together, and that led to this week’s recipe.

It’s a reflection of Ireland today – fusion food. I love to create recipes pulling inspiration from different food cultures. I love seeing how they often intersect and merge, coming close to being the very same thing but then a rogue ingredient or cooking method can make it all change direction.

I used the Polish method of preparing cabbage rolls for this recipe. Blanching the whole leaves, then trimming the thick spine, leaves a smooth, malleable leaf to fold and wrap the filling. I’m using a Chinese dumpling-style mix with sweet pork, ginger and spice. It works so well. Pork can take more flavour than you can imagine, so adding lots of highly flavoured ingredients is crucial to these cabbage rolls. Soy sauce, fish sauce and a sprinkling of dried dillisk flakes all bring saltiness. I usually use all of the stalks from the coriander and chop them very finely. Keep the leaves for dressing the finished dish. The dipping sauce is bright and salty with a burst of lime juice and some umami dillisk. I love to add seaweed flakes to so many things, from home-made pesto to lasagna. Adding a few shakes of these delicious flakes will bring great umami flavour as well as being a good source of minerals and vitamins.

Dried seaweed flakes are widely available in most large supermarkets and health stores now from various Irish companies such as Atlantic Irish Seaweed and Irish Seaweeds.

Cabbage rolls with dillisk dipping sauce

Serves 4-6

1-2 large cabbages
500g pork mince
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tbs finely grated ginger
½tsp Chinese five spice
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1tsp fish sauce
1tsp soy sauce
1tsp dried dillisk flakes
2tbs finely chopped coriander

For the dipping sauce
1tbs fish sauce
2tbs soy sauce
Juice of ½ lime
1tsp dried dillisk flakes

Peel the large outer leaves carefully from the cabbage. You should get at least 12 large, full leaves. Immerse them in a large pot of simmering water for 30 seconds to soften them. Drain them on a cooling rack. Lay each leaf flat on the chopping board. Using a small paring knife, trim away the thick stem so that the entire leaf is smooth and flat. This will really help when rolling the leaves.

Mix all of the filling ingredients together. Using your hands is easiest. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the centre of each leaf, then fold the cabbage leaf up as you would an enchilada. Lay the rolls, seam-side down, in a steamer or colander over simmering water. Place the lid over the steamer and leave the rolls to steam for 10-12 minutes until cooked through.

Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together. Serve right away.

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