Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cabbage with Ground Beef (Kiymali Kapuska)

This dish's name comes from the word "kapusta" which means "cabbage" in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian and Slovak. It is the Turkish version of the cabbage stew that's popular in all those other cultures. The cooking procedure is the same as other vegetable dishes in Turkish cuisine that are cooked with ground beef/lamb, but somehow, in Turkish we do not call this one "cabbage with ground beef", but "kapuska".

Cabbage is one those vegetables you really need to give a try. I know it does not smell so good when it's cooking, but it will taste great when you are eating it; and it is so good for you, too.

Ingredients: (Serves 6)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8 oz/1/2 kg ground beef (preferably 80/20)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green cabbage, about 2 1/2 lbs/1 kg, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes; plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cups hot water; plus more, if necessary


  • Heat vegetable oil in a pot. Add onion and ground beef. Breaking up the ground beef and mixing it with diced onion, saute over medium-high heat until onion is translucent and ground beef is no longer pink.
  • Add the cabbage, tomato paste, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes; stir and saute for a few minutes until the cabbage looks wilted down and a bit caramelized (be careful not to burn it).
  • Add hot water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer until all the cabbage pieces are soft to the bite. Add more water along the way, if necessary, to prevent the stew from drying and until cabbage is cooked through.

Additional points:

  • Cabbage is the kind of vegetable that eats up a lot of tomato paste while cooking. So, don't be afraid to use above given measurement; tomato paste will give your stew body and flavor. If you do not have tomato paste, you can always substitute it with diced tomatoes, just be aware of the amount of juice that comes with the tomatoes.
  • Cabbage may also eat up quite an amount of water until it cooks through. Depending on the type of green cabbage you find, it may have soft green leaves, along with a lot of whitish hard leaves which take a long time to soften. So, if you are cooking cabbage in a regular pot, you will most probably need to add more than 2 1/2 cups water; do not add water in large amounts, though, this would dilute the taste and spoil the balance; check your stew regularly and add water gradually. Remember: This is a stew, not a soup; we want kind of a caramelized taste, not a watery one.
  • This dish is also a good candidate to cook in a pressure cooker. When using pressure cookers, the amount of water you should add and the cooking time vary from model to model. I use a very simple, primitive model which still works for me after almost 15 years. Mine cooks this dish with a hard leaved-cabbage, with 2 1/2 cups water, in 1 hour. A newer, more modern version would probably take much less time.
  • The salt amount above is obviously a suggestion. Please adjust it depending on your taste and health issues.

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