This magnificent cabbage and sausage pie was first made by me in 2013 when I was living in London. I found the recipe on a small blog that has disappeared with no details left behind, so I cannot give them proper credit, which is a shame because this is a fabulous recipe that one can and should make entirely their own. Spice levels, fat sources, and sausage choices make this pie perfectly flexible to the cook’s tastes.
From the getgo, this recipe was tremendously popular. I immediately named it after me, which is tacky, but I introduced this dish to half of London. I made this for the first time as a side dish for a Christmas Eve meal and used sausages that most likely had pork in them. Oy. What a difference a few years makes…
As one of my significant worldly contributions, I stand by the naming decision. Also, stuffed cabbage is no one’s recipe, but an obsession with the veining of a leaf counts for something, no?
Now I make this pie always for Tu BiShvat, the New Year of Trees or birthday for trees. The dish’s name stays the same. The gorgeous veining on the cabbage leaves demands the reference continues, even when religions and sausage types change.
I’ll stop going on about the name. I think we all know how to proceed. Right? Yes?
It’s delicious and perfect for Tu BiShvat. Go ahead and celebrate trees as if climate change wasn’t a concern. Which, sadly, it most definitely is. Every day is a reminder, but on Tu BiShvat, observe the tradition of planting new trees: hope springs eternal, especially when your fingers are stuck in the soil.
As the original recipe source is gone, and I’ve made this so many times that I don’t follow a recipe anymore, I’m sharing a version that The Guardian’s Rachel Roddy (brilliant, brilliant, Roddy) published a few years later in 2015. It’s similar to mine, except I like to add more warm spices: ginger, cumin, or caraways seeds, depending on my mood.
It’s also nice to incorporate a layer of mashed potatoes inside the pie itself rather than on the side.
Rachel’s take was inspired by a Rowley Leigh recipe for a sort of chou farci, or stuffed cabbage. So it’s a recipe that feels very familiar when you read about it, but the beauty of the full tree is even more charming in person.
Lastly, vegan sausages are excellent, and I think they work best in a recipe like this. Although there are tons of great pork-free sausages, you cannot go wrong with a vegan option. Depending on how you run your kitchen and what ingredients you choose, omitting butter for olive oil is good, or use schmaltz if you have some on hand.
Again, this recipe is a prime example of how much we can adjust the seasoning and change everything. I think the more warm spices, the better. Use your discernment and add what, and to what strength, you love.
Jessica's Tree Of Life Pie
Preheat the oven to 200° C/ 180° C fan/ 400° F
- 1 large savoy cabbage
- 20ml olive oil
- A small knob of butter
- About half tsp fennel seeds (optional)
- 500g lean, well-seasoned sausage meat
- More butter, for greasing and dotting
- Salt and black pepper
1 Choose 7 of the largest, nicest outer cabbage leaves and wash them. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil then blanch the chosen leaves for 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the leaves out, keeping the water. Rinse the leaves briefly with cold water and blot on a clean tea towel.
2 Cut the rest of the cabbage into quarters and bring the water back to the boil. Cook the cabbage in the boiling water until the leaves are tender, but the stem still firm – about 5 minutes. Drain the cabbage and, once cool enough, squeeze out any excess water. Cut away the stem, chop the leaves roughly, put in a bowl and dress with the olive oil, a knob of butter, salt and pepper and some fennel seeds, if you like. Squeeze the sausage meat from the casing.
3 Butter a 20cm-round ovenproof dish. Choose the nicest leaf from the seven you saved and put it at the bottom of the dish. Now arrange the other six so they cover the sides of the dish, overlapping a lot and hanging over the edges.
4 Now, for the layers. Press a third of the dressed cabbage mixture into the bottom of the leaf-lined dish. Then make a layer with half the sausage meat, pressing it down firmly. Repeat the process ending with a third layer of cabbage leaves. Fold over the overhanging cabbage leaves and cover to make a neat parcel.
5 Dot with a little butter and bake at 180° C for an hour. When ready, let the cake sit for 5 minutes before inverting over a plate carefully, as there will be hot juices. Serve with rich tomato sauce, buttery mash, or both.
A version of this post first went up on February 10, 2020.