Do you need to feel as if you’re gallivanting in the Bavarian hinterland? Do you itch to feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your back, or just want a slow carb, hands off, sausage-based tray bake that can look after itself in the oven until it’s time for dinner? If any of those apply to you, I think you can help. This braised/baked red cabbage, apple, lentil and sausage cohort might be what you’re looking for. If you’re in a hurry, skip straight to the recipe at the bottom.
This week in the fun game of #poppyseedtopumpkin it’s time to focus on red cabbages. My sidekick now weighs as much as one and by gracious, isn’t she making her presence felt. Here are some of the things that are no longer fun; walking extended distances, getting up off the couch or the floor, eating meals larger than the size of my fist, trundling over soft sand, hauling toddlers around, sitting for long periods, pushing shopping trolleys, turning upside down (bye bye yoga). If I was conducting a 360 performance review of my hips and my esophagus they would both get ‘UNSATISFACTORY’ printed in red on their HR paperwork at the moment. Now at this stage of gestation people may try to say comforting things like ‘only ten weeks or so to go!’ Let me be clear. While I’m not ready for her to come out yet (a fully developed set of lungs for her being preferable), this is not a soothing thing to hear. Ten weeks feels like an eternity.
I don’t remember it being like this. This time last go around we had just returned from three weeks in Eastern Europe and were gadding up to the Lake District and having a degustation at L’Enclume. We were about to pack our entire lives up in crates and suitcases and fly home to Australia, stopping off in Hong Kong for 48 hours to traipse around and search out the best pork buns in the world. Good gracious. Just thinking about all of that makes me want to have a nap.
Instead I’m pottering around at home and a major excursion is to the other side of the harbour bridge (or my mother’s house down south). Meanwhile Will is in the throes of an existential crisis, where he’s very concerned about ‘Little Boy Will in the Mirror’ (i.e. his reflection), who gets lonely when he’s not there to keep him entertained. Narcissus has nothing on my son. And I’m concentrating on stocking the freezer. On Saturday we started with 8 litres of bolognaise (why do things in halves, right?). And now we’ll have some of this to go in there too.
This bake/braise reminds me so much of many of the dishes we ate while driving through the Czech Republic and Bavaria on the babymoon we had with Will. Yet there are some important things that are missing. One is the potatoes. Of course, you could serve this with potatoes, but there’s plenty of substance from the lentils and the cabbage, so you don’t really feel like they’re missing and if you’re secreting away as much cake as I am at 4 pm, then the absence of another white carbohydrate is a positive. The other is the fat. By roasting/braising this with the lid on in the oven and blitzing the onion and apple together you get the juicy gilding of a sauce, without the need to smother everything in butter and/or duck fat. This is the perfect thing to get started earlier on in the evening, then allow it to potter away while you get on with a few other domestic tasks.
The only non negotiables are some sort of nut or seed to scatter over the top for textural crunch – I like pecans – I think they have a lovely affinity with apples, but you could easily use walnuts, almonds or pumpkin seeds if you needed a nut free option. And the second is some sort of mustard to serve on the side as a cut through. Of course, if you could eat it with a verdant view of the European countryside in front of you, that would just be bonny. But if not, out of bowls on the couch also works just fine.
Here are a few other things that are going on
Eating: On Sunday I had a cooking fail. I tried to make a chocolate/strawberry tiramisu style trifle for friends who were coming to supper to serve after baked gnocchi with ragu, kale and mozzarella and a large bitter leaf salad with shaved courgette and basil. Except I made the custard a little too loose, we didn’t have quite enough savoiardi biscuits so stitched it together with some leftover date and cocoa cake and the whole thing was just too sad to serve to company. So at 3 pm Will and I decided to make a hasty torte. This below pear and almond thing was delightfully easy and festive when served with Greek yoghurt (though warning- not gluten free/ refined sugar free- but sometimes it’s worth pushing the boat out). It has a lovely moist and tender crumb and a caramel sweetness from the pear, butter and sugar. With that in mind, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work with a gluten free flour and coconut sugar.
It was 125 g softened butter, beaten with 1 cup sugar until fluffy, then 2 eggs beaten in, then fold in 1 cup wholemeal or spelt flour, 1/2 cup ground almonds and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder. Then fold through a peeled, ripe pear cut into cubes. Transfer to a 22cm circular pan lined w baking paper, top w handful chopped almonds and bake 170c for 50 minutes until skewer comes out clean. It was delightful – moist, not-quite-cakeish-not-quite-a-torte. The perfect Sunday evening pudding.
Reading: After listening to the latest edition of the Slate Culture Gabfest ‘Beige Goo’ I fell into a google hole on Soylent- the tech world’s attempt at food disruption (which has had some pretty interesting side effects in the last couple of weeks). This piece from back in 2014 was pretty gripping/shudder-inducing. I’ll take a proper meal around a shared table, thanks.
Listening: Anyone who wants a genuine rip snorter/chortle of a listen while on a commute/ doing a drive should dig out the episode of ‘Story Club’ from Kate Mulvany of ‘He Should be Called Hammerstein’about a trip to Byron Bay which goes off the rails after some exotic muesli. It’s tea-splurtingly funny.
Stocking up: If there are two words you should never type into Google it’s ‘nursing nightie’. But my nesting urge is kicking in and I’m remembering that the most useful thing I purchased just prior to Will’s birth was a simple black cotton dress that I could wear day/night and still feed out of (though we’ll see how we go with that this time around). These ones were so good that I wore the two that I bought to death, so I’ve stocked up on a brand new one for this go around. Soft cotton, floaty enough to be comfortable and flattering, empire waisted, not too pricey and not too frilly. Done. See here.
Exploring: The bump/ wayward pelvis and the boys and I all headed over to our old stomping ground of Bondi squintingly early on Sunday morning to see the annual Sculptures by the Sea between Bronte and Bondi (the early birds get the parking spots- though it still took a good 20 minutes of circling). One of the most glorious walks in Australia made even more sublime by these temporary installations. If you’re ever in Sydney in the last weeks of October/first weeks of November, make sure it’s on your to-do list.
Red Cabbage, Apple, Sausage and Lentil Tray Bake
2 Pink Lady apples, cored
2 red onions, peeled
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small red cabbage (or 1/4 large) cored and shredded (you want approx 500 g shredded cabbage)
2 tbsp maple syrup or runny honey
4 pork sausages (more if you fancy more meat)
1 x 400 g tin of lentils, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp pecans
Salt to taste
English mustard to serve
Here’s how we roll
1 Preheat the oven to 180c/350 F
2) Add one of the cored apples and one of the peeled onions to a food processor/blender with the apple cider vinegar and blitz until you have a fine dice/slurry.
2) Take a Dutch oven or a deep roasting tray and layer in the cabbage with the other onion and apple, both finely sliced into half moons.
3) Add the onion and apple slurry to the pot. Pour over the olive oil and stir to combine. Add the lid, or cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes to soften.
4) After 30 minutes remove from the oven and add the lentils and sausages over the top. Drizzle with the maple syrup. Roast without the lid on for 30-40 minutes, until the sausages are golden and cooked through.
5) Season with salt to taste and scatter with pecans. Serve with hot English mustard on the side.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)