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Kaalilaatikko: Finnish Cabbage Bake

When we were kids, my brother and I were spoiled with delicious home cooked meals every single day. I tease my Mum and say we never had take away. She defends herself saying we did, and yes we did, but not very often. But as much as I love to tease her about it, I am quietly proud of the fact that she took great pride in what she dished up for us.

Mostly our dinners were Finnish meals. Casseroles served with boiled potatoes were a regular on the menu. And we always had a glass of milk with our dinner. We sat together as a family at the dinner table, and enjoyed Mum’s fabulous cooking. Until she served up kaalilaatikko. 

I remember looking at my brother whenever it appeared, noses screwed up throwing each other sympathetic glances. There was nothing that appealing to ten year old me about baked cabbage. Or cabbage full stop.

I tried making kaalilaatikko myself for the first time. Surprisingly I remembered the taste as though I’d just eaten it yesterday, although this time around I actually enjoyed it. I used to smother it in tomato sauce as a kid to try and disguise the taste. I wonder if I disliked it or just convinced myself I did given the basis of the dish is cabbage. I still smothered it with tomato sauce this time around, but not because I wanted to disguise the taste. It just wouldn’t be kaalilaatikko as I know it without it.

You can halve this recipe. Mum tells me it is traditionally served with cranberry sauce. But I wasn’t breaking my own tradition so had it with tomato sauce instead.

Kaalilaatikko: Finnish Cabbage Bake


3/4 cup short grain rice

Knob of butter

1 brown onion, sliced

500g mince

Salt and pepper 

1 tablespoon oil

1 cabbage, diced thinly

1 tablespoon golden syrup

2 cups beef stock

Cook rice in rice cooker as per usual method. 

Preheat oven to 200C.

Melt butter in frying pan. Add onion and mince, season with salt and pepper. Fry until mince is cooked, take off heat.

Heat oil in a big pot. Add cabbage, cover, and sauté until soft but do not brown. Remove from heat.

Add mince, onion, cooked rice and golden syrup to the pot with the cabbage, combine well.  

Pour mixture into oven dish, pour the stock over the top and bake in oven for about an hour or until the top is nice and brown. If it’s getting too brown on top, cover with foil.

Kaalilaatikko: Finnish Cabbage BakeKaalilaatikko: Finnish Cabbage BakeKaalilaatikko: Finnish Cabbage BakeKaalilaatikko: Finnish Cabbage Bakepeggy

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  • Kim - I just found your page this morning after looking at ocean cottage rentals and semi-planning a future trip. The word sand led me to your site. My version of a yeast inspired tantrum was when I kept my bread starter alive for weeks and then let it “die”. You would have thought I lost a pet.I am going to try the cabbage dish. Just to get both versions I will try the traditional and a little with tomato sauce. I have acquired a taste for things I didn’t like when I was young (I’m 50)and have wondered why that happens more than once (apparently I have relaxed/busy days too).I look forward to learning new things and reading your humorous posts. Please tell your mother Thank You for me and that her recipe is going to be tried 12 miles North of Nashville, Tennessee. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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