So much of the food that we eat is just plain old, everyday food. Spaghetti sauce, roll, grilled cheese sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, there is something wonderful, and comforting, and familiar, and home about those foods, but they are still just ordinary.
But there are some foods that are just special, that are different. It might be the first dumplings I ever had when I was traveling in China or Whit’s ice cream from when I was in college. Foods that, just thinking about it, just take me back to that time and that place. That even sitting here just make me smile.
And once in a while, you catch a taste of something that thought you would never have again and maybe weren’t even looking for. I was fortunate enough to find that in this unassuming cabbage casserole recipe. With that very first bite, it transported me back to Kenya, to my homestay in Nairobi. To a place where I struggled and grew, and learned about a different way of life and a different way of eating. I wasn’t looking for this recipe, but the moment I tasted it, I knew that I had found something special and precious and dear.
I am so happy that I get to share it with you. I encourage you to make this meal to celebrate the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita on February 8, as this extraordinary woman was originally from East Africa (the Sudan).
Enjoy this taste of Kenya. Serve with chapati or applesauce.
- ½ lb ground meat (beef, turkey, or pork)
- ½ yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- ½ Tbsp dried minced onion
- 16 oz tomato sauce
- ¼ cup applesauce (no sugar added)
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- Dash salt and pepper
- ¾ lb cabbage
- Thaw ground meat in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave.
- Cut peppers according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).
- Heat the skillet over medium heat. Brown the meat (cook, stirring occasionally until no longer pink). While that is cooking, shred the cabbage (similar to how you would for coleslaw but it does not need to be as thin). When the meat is done, if there are a lot of drippings, drain most of it from the pan; if there are no drippings, add a little bit of oil.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Add the peppers, garlic, and onion to the meat and saute (cook, stirring occasionally). While they are cooking, combine the remaining ingredients except the cabbage in a bowl. Once the peppers are softened, pour the mixture into the skillet and stir together, scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Pour half the mixture into the casserole dish, layer on all of the cabbage, and add the rest of the meat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes.
- You could substitute beans for the meat for vegetarian dish, with extra garlic, salt, and pepper to pump up the flavor.
- You can substitute collard greens or kale for the cabbage.
- For extra Kenyan flair, use pieces of chapati to pick up the casserole with your fingers.