Hungarian / Romanian Layered Cabbage (Rakot Kaposta)

This recipe is from the Transylvanian region of Romania, which is near the Hungarian border and was once occupied by Hungary. Since my late father came from that region, I learned the recipe from him, though I am certain there are many variations. This one is more on the Hungarian side, and has been modified by my mother, then later by me. Some add rice, some don't. Some use bacon or not etc. Some would even say it resembles the Greek Moussaka, which in a way it does. This is a great family dish for fall or winter and is even better the day after it has been cooked !

Time: 2 hours (approx)
Effort: Medium (only because there are a lot of steps)
Serves 6

2 cups cooked long-grain rice (make beforehand)
1/2 Savoy cabbage or green cabbage
1/4 caraway seeds
1 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 lb ground beef or combination of beef, veal and pork
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
2 tbsp Hungarian Paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
8 slices of bacon
10 slices of Hungarian Kolbasz
Sour cream

Pre-cook rice and set aside. Cut cabbage and break into pieces into a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and caraway seeds, and pour the vinegar over it, then let steep while you prepare the meat. In a large saucepan, saute the onion and green pepper with the oil for approximately 5 minutes. Add the ground meat, cover and simmer, stirring from time to time until the meat is cooked. Add the paprika, tomatoes and salt and pepper and combine well. Simmer covered on medium low until the tomatoes are cooked and combined into a sauce. Meanwhile, drain the cabbage, keeping the caraway seeds, and steam for approx. 15 minutes or until tender.

Heat oven to 350oF. Take a large oven dish or casserole and line it with the bacon, leaving pieces hanging over the side so you can later use them to cover the top. Spread 1/3 of the rice evenly on the bottom, then 1/3 of the meat. Spread a few cabbage leaves over the meat and then repeat the process until you reach the top of your dish, ending with cabbage. Layer the bacon slices which were hanging over the side in a lattice fashion (see picture), then place slices of kolbasz around the sides or on top if you like. Bake for about 1 hour or until the top is browned. Serve with sour cream on top.