Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Will the internet supplant mothers' advice?

Cooking is an inexact science, but once you stumble on something that works, it often becomes a favourite. One way to stumble on a great recipe is to have someone who has been cooking it for forty years - and their mother before that - right there in the kitchen next to you, and show you how to do it, many times, until you can do it instinctively. That's the old, slow, inefficient way.

The modern, fast, efficient way is the internet. The internet knows everything. The internet takes up less room than an aged mother-in-law and you don't have to feed it. The internet doesn't nag. It just gives you options. Millions of them. Billions of them. No need to hand down recipes to your children any more. No need to teach them anything. Just give them an iPad and walk away.

Stuffed red cabbage rolls.

Buy a red cabbage. Or grow one.

Mix half a kilogram minced beef with three quarters of a cup of basmati rice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of coriander powder, half a teaspoon each of cumin powder and salt, a little cracked pepper, two chopped cloves of garlic, and the juice of half a lemon.

Steam 10-12 red cabbage leaves. Wait! That's what six million internet recipes tell you to do. But no-one in the history of the world has yet been able to remove a complete cabbage leaf from a raw head of cabbage. They rip and tear. This brings to mind an image of the home chef trying to remove whole leaves from a raw cabbage and becoming frustrated and throwing the cabbage through the kitchen door and into the hallway, smashing the precious ceramic umbrella holder by the front door. Just because of an internet recipe shortcut.

A better way is to core the cabbage, boil it whole, cool it and then carefully remove the softened leaves. Maybe boiling a whole cabbage makes the recipe sound too hard. Everything has to sound easy. Even if it isn't. I think I'm beginning to understand.

Having carefully removed the softened leaves, make fat cigars - Monopoly tycoon-style - of the mince mixture. Roll the cigars up in the cabbage leaves, leaving a bit of expansion room for the rice.

Meanwhile, slightly reduce two tablespoons of tomato paste, a cup or so of chicken stock, the juice of two lemons and two crushed garlic cloves in a pan.

Place the cabbage cigars snugly in a casserole and pour enough fluid over the cabbage rolls to just cover them. Squeeze more lemon juice and shake some pepper over the top. Place a lid or foil on the casserole. Bake an hour or more, checking and adjusting fluid as necessary.

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