Hirino me Lahano

Pork with Cabbage

THIS DISH is called kapuska in Olympi, an unspoiled medieval village on the island of Chios, where the recipe comes from. The word is probably Slavic, and it is also used in Turkey for a similar dish. During the last century, many Chians, especially people from this particular village, lived and prospered in Istanbul. Kapuska was most likely one of the dishes they brought with them when they returned to their island. The dish is flavored with a homemade fragrant spice mixture called aspetsa, which contains mainly hot peppers and dried herbs, including oregano, basil and mint, along with dried orange peel. The recipe has probably survived in this village—the only place I have seen it—since the time of the Genoese.

Ingredients

  • 1 2-pound boneless pork shoulder or roast leg (fresh ham), trimmed of most fat
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • cups grated ripe tomatoes (see Note) or cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Hot Pepper and Herb Mix (optional)
  • 1½–2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or ⅔–1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (the smaller amount if using the Hot Pepper and Herb Mix)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Salt
  • 1 large cabbage (about 2 pounds), preferably savoy, cored, quartered and sliced into thick ribbons
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Method

Place the pork, onion, oil and sugar in a large pot and add enough water to come two-thirds of the way up the sides of the meat. Bring to a boil and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, turning the pork once. Remove from the heat and let stand for 1 hour, or until cool, then refrigerate overnight.

Remove the pork from the pot and slice it or cut it into 2-inch cubes. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and boil over high heat until reduced to a little less than 2 cups. Return the pork to the pot and cook for 2 minutes, turning to coat it with the sauce. Add the tomatoes, wine, hot pepper mix (if using), pepper or pepper flakes, cinnamon stick, salt to taste and enough water, if needed, to come two-thirds up the sides of the pork. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, cook the cabbage in a large pot of boiling salted water for 12 minutes, or until it starts to soften. Drain and rinse under cold running water.

Add the cabbage to the pork mixture and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pork and cabbage are tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings, and discard the cinnamon stick.

Serve hot, sprinkling each serving with parsley, if using.

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