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Stuffed Savoy cabbage with lentils

Serves 4

This is a classic, hearty French peasant dish. The cabbage acts as a casing for the pork filling, which you can change according to your taste (using minced chicken and chicken livers, for example) or you could make it vegetarian with a filling of, say, chopped wild mushrooms, onions, herbs and breadcrumbs.

4 large outer leaves of Savoy cabbage
1 litre or enough hot beef or chicken stock to cover the stuffed cabbage

For the stuffing

400g fatty minced pork
100g pork livers, cleaned and minced or finely chopped
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
100ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

100g Puy lentils, soaked for an hour or so in cold water

2-3 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 stick of celery, peeled if necessary and finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
tbsp plain flour
tsp tomato purée
10ml red wine
500ml beef stock

To make the stuffing, put the minced pork into a bowl with the pork livers, onion, garlic and thyme. Bring the cream to the boil and pour over the breadcrumbs. Leave to cool then mix with the pork mixture and season.

Meanwhile, cook the cabbage leaves in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl of cold water. Transfer to some kitchen paper and dry well. Remove the thick middle veins with a sharp knife, leaving the leaves intact. Lay the leaves on a board and spoon the pork mixture evenly between them. Fold the leaves into neat balls, then wrap a piece of clingfilm round each, gathering the ends up and twisting it into a tight ball. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

To make the sauce, drain the lentils and put them into a pan, covered with lightly salted boiling water. Simmer for 10 minutes and drain. Meanwhile, gently cook the shallot, garlic, celery and carrot in the butter for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the flour and tomato purée, stir well, then gradually add the red wine and beef stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the lentils, check seasoning and continue to simmer for 15 minutes and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the clingfilm from the cabbage and put it into an ovenproof dish. Cover with the hot stock, and cook with the lid on for about 30-40 minutes.

To serve, reheat the sauce, drain the stock from the cabbage, place the stuffed cabbage on a dish; pour the sauce around.