Strictly speaking, spring cabbage and pumpkin wouldn’t see much of each other in the course of a year, the last of well-stored pumpkins just about meeting the first of the spring cabbages. But the thin, dark, supple leaves of spring cabbage are the best wrappers for this dish, so I’m giving you this version. I’ve used savoy (a bit too chunky), spinach and chard (fine, a bit delicate and hard to get enough leaves big enough) and even kale (emergencies only). I wasn’t too convinced about the feta custard the first time I used it, but now I really like the fact that the feta is outside the dolma and falling off them, making it a peripheral, background flavour, something feta rarely is, leaving the pumpkin to shine through. I would serve a couscous and vegetable pilaff with this, or simply buttered couscous and some chilli-spiced chickpeas or green beans.
Trim the cabbage leaves, shaving any thick stalks down to the thickness of the leaf, then drop the leaves into boiling water for about five minutes. Rinse in cold water and drain off the water.
To make the custard, simply blend the cheese, egg, yoghurt, garlic and cayenne in a food processor.
Place about a tablespoon of pumpkin mash at the base of each cabbage leaf, roll the leaf up half a turn, tuck in the sides, and continue to roll the leaf all the way up. Keep a little pressure on as you roll, to get a fairly tight parcel, and trim the top of the leaf to finish with a neat edge at the end. Arrange the parcels close together in an oiled oven dish, the neat edges on the bottom, and pour the custard over the top - it should seep down a little but sit on top too, to prevent the dolma burning.
Serve three dolma per person, with some of the custard clinging to them, and the coriander-chilli pesto drizzled over.
© 1999 All rights reserved. Published by Cork University Press.