I have a friend who claims she doesn’t cook, and yet every time I am at her house, she whips up something outrageously delicious, usually with an interesting twist on classic dishes. Take, for example, this braised cabbage with mushrooms and ham.
This dish, also known as Solyanka (or Soljanka), is very popular in Russia and Germany, and it’s usually made with cabbage, a little bit of pickled cucumber (for saltiness), and a broth. Sometimes the meat is added, too. Well, my friend took this dish to a completely new level, by reducing the broth basically to zero and making it more like a stew, adding wild mushrooms and ham, and using only a very moderate amount of pickled cucumber to add just the right saltiness. She also used only about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste for color and to create a very subtle tomato flavor. Oh, my deliciousness! This has become my new comfort food and a favorite way to eat cabbage! Just take a look at this medley of veggies: can you smell the wild mushrooms infused with garlic flavor, tomato, cabbage, ham, and pickle flavors?!
Because the vegetables here are cooked in a very little liquid, and simmered at a low temperature (without boiling), all the flavors mingle nicely, and what you get is a perfectly prepared stew! You can serve it as-is, or on top of rice or quinoa!
Braised cabbage with mushrooms and ham (Solyanka)
Total time: 1 hour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
- about 2 tablespoons water
- 8 cups cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 pickled cucumber, finely chopped
- 3 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped
- 1 and 1/2 cups ham, chopped
- salt and black pepper
1) In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat, add chopped onion and minced garlic and cook until softened for about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat, if necessary, to avoid burning the onions and garlic.
2) Add tomato paste and about 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet, and mix, cooking on medium heat, to make sure the tomato paste is well combined with onions and garlic.
3) On medium heat, add shredded cabbage, finely chopped pickled cucumber, chopped mushrooms and chopped ham to the tomato paste mixture, mix to combine. Add more water if needed, by tablespoons, to make sure your mixture remains moist but not soupy.
4) Reduce heat to simmer and let the vegetables braise on very low heat for about 40 minutes to make sure all flavors blend well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.