This hearty chorizo cabbage and three bean stew recipe makes my spicy take on a traditional Eastern European stew my Russian grandmother cooked that’s called kapustniak, kapustnyak or kapusniak in Russia, Ukraine and Poland. Originally made with kielbasa and sauerkraut, I use chorizo to add warmth and deep flavours, and three types of beans to add texture.
Like all good Russian grandmas, my baboushka had an impressive repertoire of hearty soups and stews. In autumn and winter, there seemed to always be a big pot of something bubbling on the stove, steaming up the windows in a kitchen that was always cold, and filling the house with mouthwatering aromas.
I think half the time I cook my Russian family recipes – and any cabbage recipes, as baboushka was always cooking cabbage! – I do it as much for a taste of the past and to provoke those memories of simpler times, as I do for a chance to savour baba’s delicious food, or something that resembles it. I’d give anything to be in that house again with my family tucking into bowls of baba’s stews and soups.
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Now let me tell you about my chorizo cabbage and three bean stew recipe for my spicy take on a traditional Eastern European stew.
Chorizo Cabbage and Three Bean Stew Recipe for a Spicy Take on a Traditional Russian Stew
My chorizo cabbage and three bean stew recipe makes an iteration of a traditional Eastern European stew or soup that my Russian grandmother had already tweaked to her own taste and made much heartier than the original, which often happens in diasporas.
While some of my baboushka’s specialties, such as borscht and shchi were readily identifiable and didn’t taste all that different to what we’d sample in Russia years later, some were no doubt of my grandmother’s own invention, others a slight resemblance to dishes I’d recognise on our European travels.
Called kapustniak or kapustnyak, this stew is typically lighter and more like a soup and was originally made with kielbasa and sauerkraut in Ukraine and Poland, both of which claim to be the source of a dish found all over Central and Eastern Europe.
Now this is where I should clarify what I mean by kielbasa, which in Poland refers to numerous kinds of sausages. In Australia, it was used interchangeably to describe a long thin smoky Polish sausage called kabanos or kabanosy (plural) – or cabanossi in Australia.
My baboushka often bought kielbasa or kabanosy – kolbasa or колбаса in Russian – from a delicatessen in Blacktown to snack on with cheese and gherkins – and my grandfather often ate it for breakfast with a boiled egg, tomato, cucumber, black rye bread and a shot of vodka.
But baba used a spicier Hungarian-style sausage for this stew – one no doubt seasoned with smoky paprika – which I’ve gone and replaced with Spanish chorizo, for even more spice and colour and a greater depth of flavour. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you more below in my tips to making this hearty chorizo cabbage and three bean stew recipe.
Tips to Making this Chorizo Cabbage and Three Bean Stew Recipe
Just a few quick tips to making this hearty chorizo cabbage and three bean stew recipe. My grandmother sometimes used sauerkraut for this stew, which she’d either make herself or, in her later years, buy from the deli. She was never much of a supermarket shopper.
I’ve used fresh cabbage here, as I wanted to fry the cabbage in the spicy chorizo oil. But I will make my own sauerkraut and try that and report back. I’ve recommended white or green cabbage, but I also tried a Chinese cabbage we get here.
I’ve gone and added beans to this soup, which, frankly, I’ve never seen in Eastern Europe, just because I love the texture and flavour, but I’ve gone crazy and added three types of beans, each of which has a different flavour and texture.
While I like this combination of butter beans, borlotti beans and kidney beans, and I like the balance of 400g of butter beans and half that of borlotti and kidney beans, by all means use your favourite beans or whatever’s in your kitchen cupboards.
And feel free to throw all the cans in if you’re feeding a crowd. This stew will definitely keep in the fridge for a few days. You should also feel free to water this down and turn it into a soup rather than a stew if you are feeding a family or facing food shortages (damn you, pandemic). It’s often served in a thinner consistency in Europe.
You can easily make this stew in an hour, but by all means let it simmer on low for longer if you like, just not for too long if you like your veggies on the firmer side.
When you do serve it, provide more fragrant fresh dill for garnishing, and some dishes of homemade dill pickles and pickled cabbage, and sour cream, along with salt and pepper, and slices of rye bread or sourdough. A Russian garden salad is nice on the side and shots of vodka will warm you right up in no time.
Chorizo Cabbage and Three Bean Stew Recipe
- 60 g Spanish chorizo - sliced ½ cm thick, then halved
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 head of white/green cabbage - 450g, shredded
- 1 large brown onion - roughly diced
- 2 large garlic cloves - finely chopped
- 2 litres of water - and more as needed
- 1 large carrot - sliced ½ cm thick, then halved/quartered
- 1 large potato - peeled and diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 tsp ground paprika
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- 1 400 g can butter beans - drained
- 1 200 g can borlotti beans - drained
- 1 200 g can kidney beans - drained
- 4 tbsp pickle brine
- 1 bunch fresh dill - roughly chopped
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, over medium, heat the oil and fry the chorizo for a minute or so until the oil is red, then scoop out the chorizo with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Spoon out half the spicy chorizo oil into a separate dish.
- Transfer the cabbage to the pot, turn heat to medium, fry to ensure the cabbage is completely covered in the remaining spicy chorizo oil, then cover with a lid and cook for five minutes. Remove the lid and stir, then cover again to cook for five more minutes until cabbage is tender, then use a slotted spoon to remove it and set aside.
- Return the remaining chorizo oil to the pot, turn the heat to medium, and fry the onions until soft and golden, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic, combine, and fry until fragrant.
- Add the carrots, potatoes and cooked cabbage to the pot, along with one litre of water, bay leaves, seasoning and spices, stir to combine well, and leave to cook for ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
- Return the chorizo pieces to the pot, add another litre of water, the drained beans, and pickle brine, stir to combine everything, then cook for another ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
- Check the potatoes and carrots to see if they’re almost done enough for you. If they’re not, add more water, turn the heat to high, and continue to cook until they are just about ready, then try the stew and adjust the seasoning and spices to your taste.
- Just before serving, stir in half the fresh dill. Distribute the stew between bowls, garnish with more fresh dill – you can never have enough dill – and serve with dishes of sour cream and dill pickles, and slices of sourdough or rye bread.
Please do let us know if you make my hearty chorizo cabbage and three bean stew recipe in the comments below as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.