I know that this does not sound very appetizing but bear with me. It is based upon a recipe from the Aroso Valley in Italy, Zuppa alla Valdostana. ‘Zuppa’ means soup, but this is as much like soup as I am a Dutchman. Anyway, soup or sandwich, it is one of those recipes where humble ingredients (cabbage, cheese, stale bread, butter and stock) combine magically to produce something unexpectedly wonderful.
As a further reference, it was an absolute favourite of my children when they were small. And these were children for whom the mere sight of vegetables could induce anaphylactic shock. I have never come across anyone who did not love the result. The problem has been persuading people to try making it. But you will, won’t you? (Please post your reaction in the comments section.)
The result should be crisp and golden on top and bottom, but soft and squidgy in the middle.
A word about ‘stock’. Stock cubes have improved greatly in recent years, and I would not be without them. But this is one of those recipes where stock cubes will not do. You really need to make your own vegetable stock, – you can find the recipe under BASIC RECIPES, or follow the link below under ingredients.
3 small ciabattas, slightly stale
½ large cabbage
250g mature Gouda cheese (slices are easiest), or Italian Fontina
750ml vegetable stock
1. Slice the ciabatta thinly.
2. Core and dissect the cabbage into individual leaves, and boil these for about 10 minutes (or until quite soft.) Drain, refresh and allow to cool.
3. Grease the bottom of an ovenproof dish (about 20cm x 30cm) with about 1tbsp of butter.
4. Lay 1/3 of the bread in the bottom of the dish (it should cover it approximately but not overlap) and moisten with a few tablespoons of stock.
5. lay half the cabbage on top.
6. Sprinkle slivers of 1/3 of the remaining butter.
7. Top with 1/3 the cheese slices, neatly arranged.
9. Finish with the remaining bread and top with remaining butter.
10. Pour over the vegetable stock.
11. Bake at 180° for 20-20 minutes, or until the bread is crisp and golden.