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collection by ICAF Europe

Sarmale (pork in pickled cabbage)

800 g pork meat (without bones)
2.5 kg pickled cabbage (with uncut cabbage leaves)
4 onions
100 g tomato paste or purée
1.5 litre water (or, if available, meat stock)
2 g paprika powder
250 g dripping or cooking oil
100 g rice
5 g peppercorns
2 g thyme
300 g smoked pork ribs
10 small tomatoes
20 g salt
20 g sugar
2 bay leaves

First mince the fresh pork meat. [In the old days the pork was chopped and minced with a small axe!]. Very gently steam two of the onions, chopped finely, in a pot with a bit of water and dripping, then add to the minced meat. Meanwhile, parboil the rice and then cool this with cold water. When cool mix this into the cooking pork with half of the crushed pepper, thyme and salt. Leave this on the stove until the pork is no longer pink.

In a separate dish, select leaves of the pickled cabbage (they should not be shredded, as in sauerkraut) and cut them into appropriate pieces, roughly like the size of your palm. Place some meat mixture on to the middle of each leaf and roll this to about the size of a cigar or a small sausage (in different regions of Romania, sarmale of different sizes are typical). Close the ends by folding the leaves inside using your index finger. In this way, you will get the proper sarmale shape. Now shred the rest of the pickled cabbage and place some shredded sauerkraut in the bottom of a cast-iron pot or similar.

Photograph (c)2008 Marian Enciu

Next, place the sarmale into the pot (as shown above), and then add the pork ribs into the pot and put the rest of the chopped pickled cabbage on top.

The rest of the onions should be cut into fine rings and fried in dripping (or oil) until golden brown. Cool the simmering onions by adding the paprika powder, the tomato paste and the water (or if available the stock). This is then placed over the sarmale, together with thyme, the bay leaves, the sugar and the rest of the peppercorns (uncrushed). Cook over a low heat for about two and a half hours. Next, slice the tomatoes and place them on top of the sarmale and put the pot in the oven, where the tomatoes will become roasted. Also you can put some sour cream or yogurt on top

Serve the sarmale with pork ribs and mamaliga (a kind of polenta).

Pofta buna! Bon appetite!

Photograph (c)2008 Marian Enciu