The other weekend my Mum decided to fly down from Brisbane and spend a few days while Mr K jetted off to Vegas for a work trip. Not only was it great hanging out with her but I took the opportunity and asked if she could make her delicious sarma, something I hadn’t eaten for many years. If you’re not a fan of sauerkraut I’d suggest looking the other way. It’s a simple dish of minced meat laced with onions and rice and some seasoning, then wrapped in pickled cabbage leaf and baked between two layers of sauekraut and paprika-flavoured liquid. This dish is made pretty much all over Eastern Europe and the one Mum makes was passed down from her own mother.
Traditionally, in this family recipe, it is cooked on the stovetop as that’s how my Grandmother always made it. I don’t have an appropriate lidded tray that is suitable so we broke with tradition and used a ceramic lasagne dish, covered it with foil and baked it in the oven. According to Mum, all that matters is that it is always gently simmering. Another tradition was broken when I suggested adding Vegeta to the water, for a little extra flavour. Mum was receptive to my suggestion and hopefully my Baka (Grandmother) isn’t turning in her grave for altering the recipe.
This recipe is also perfect to portion up and freeze for another time.
In a large bowl combine the minced meats, egg, 1 teaspoon paprika, 2/3 of the onion, salt and cracked pepper. Rinse the rice and leave about 2 tbsp water in it. Add to the mince mixture. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the onion until soft. Add 1½ tbsp paprika and the water and set aside.
Put the bacon bones into a small bowl and cover with warm water. Set aside.
Pour the fried onion mix into an ovenproof dish and add a little more water to make it 5mm deep, if needed. Scatter 400 g sauerkraut over the bottom.
Form the meat mixture into patties (about ¾ cup) and place into the centre of the cabbage leaf. Roll up the top and bottom and tuck in the sides. Arrange the rolls into the baking dish tightly.
Drain the bacon bones and tuck inbetween the cabbage rolls, then prick each roll with a knife. Spread the remaining sauerkraut over the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The following day remove it from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
Preheat oven 180°C.
In a frying pan heat 3 tbsp vege oil over medium heat and stir in the flour and paprika to form a roux. Add 2 cups water and the Vegeta and stir for a couple of minutes over low heat. Check for seasoning. Pour this over the assembled sarma, press everything down gently and cover tightly with foil.
Bake in the oven for 2-3 hours or until golden around the sides. Just make sure the sarma is always at a very low simmer.
When ready sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of bread.