The chef’s grandmother’s favourite: Transylvanian stuffed cabbage
Kistücsök (literally ’Little Grig’) is undoubtedly the best restaurant around lake Balaton. It would well deserve at least one Michelin star, but as many experts say, Michelin inspectors do not visit places in the Hungarian countryside yet. Kistücsök has a stunning wine list of carefully selected wines from all over Hungary with a wise selection of international wines. The menu changes with the seasons, and they focus on local ingredients. The owner, Balázs Csapody was chosen the Restaurateur of the Year in 2010. He keeps visiting culinary highlights all over the world, though his favourite place is North of Italy, and keeps learning together with his chef, László Jahni and the whole team.
The restaurant is open all year, and it is well worth a visit, the owner will be there for sure!
We asked him about his personal choice when it comes to Christmas dinner. His favourite Christmas holiday dish is the stuffed cabbage learnt from his grandmother, who lived in Szováta, Transylvania, now part of Romania. In Hungary, Christmas menu is not perfect without stuffed cabbage, and we recommend our readers to try this, authentic recipe from Transylvania!
Stuffed cabbage (for 4 people)
- 1 pickled cabbage (around 1,3 kg)
- 100 g rice
- 100 g onion
- 10 g garlic
- 500 g minced pork
- 100 g smoked bacon
- salt, pepper, fresh bay leaf and pennyroyal
- 1 dl sour cream
- First tear the cabbage into leaves, throw away the hard stalks. Put aside 8 beautiful leaves, cut the others into small stripes.
- Cut the bacon into small cubes and fry them in a saucepan. Add the two third of the finely chopped onion. When it is fried, add the chopped cabbage and spices (garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf, pennyroyal). Pour some stock onto it, to cover the cabbage and boil. Take out one third of it, make it smooth in a mixer and add it back into the saucepan.
- Boil the rice (until it is almost ready), mix it with the minced pork and the rest of the finely chopped onion (after fried on some bacon fat), garlic, salt and pepper. This mixture should be stuffed into the 8 cabbage leaves.
- Take out half of the boiled cabbage from the saucepan, put in the stuffed leaves, then put the second half of the boiled cabbage on the top of the stuffed leaves. Put a lid on it and put it in the oven for 1 hour at 150 Celsius.
- Serve it with sour cream and crispy fried bacon, and you may add some more previously cooked smoked meat.
Balázs Csapody recommends a Rhine Riesling from around Lake Balaton: Bencze Cellar is a small, quite new artisan winery on Szeng György hill, Badacsony wine region, and their complex, mineral ‘Rajnai Rizling 2015’ pairs well with the complex and rich dish.
Some more recommendations with stuffed cabbage
The food is really rich and complex: sour, acidic, smoked, fat, therefore you need wine with at least this level of complexity. A matured, full bodied with wine a good amount of acidity will do, like the Rhine Riesling above, but a Chardonnay, a Hárslevelű, a Juhfark or an Ezerjó is also a good choice.
If red wine is preferred, a fruit, acidic red grape is the perfect match. Pinot Noir, Kékfrankos or the well known blend, Bikavér would be the royal wine pair of this rich and exciting dish.
Frittmann Ezerjó, 2013, Kunság region
Koch Hajós–Bajai Late Harvest Chardonnay, 2015, Hajós–Baja
Béres Magita Cuvée, 2013, Tokaj
Pannonhalmi Rajnai Rizling, Babarczi Winery, 2015, Pannonhalma
Badacsonyi Pinor Noir, Szászi Estate, 2015, Badacsony
Liszkay Pinot Noir, 2011, Liszkay Wine Estate, Balaton-felvidék