What is it about cabbage that so many people are sniffy
about? Even in winter when it’s at its very best, it seems to rank even lower
than potatoes on the popularity scales.
I ADORE cabbage in all its forms, despite the best efforts of my boarding school to put me off cabbage for life…
For me, cabbage ticks all the boxes, lots of different varieties from crinkly Savoy to pointy Hispi and January King… There’s green, red and white cabbage, Chinese cabbage and drumhead for coleslaw…. Inexpensive, yet packed with vitamins and minerals. What’s not to like about a lovely head of cabbage that provides us with so many options…
Cabbage is revered in many countries. Where would the Germans be without cabbage for sauerkraut? In Romania, there’s a Cabbage Festival in Mosna over the first weekend in October. It takes place in the centre of the charming Saxon village and is an opportunity to taste a variety of traditional cabbage recipes.
I’ll never forget the sweet juicy Romanian cabbage salad I ate in Mosna a number of years ago which makes me long to return to Transylvania. Can you imagine longing to get back to a country because of the flavour of cabbage…!
And then there is the beloved, veggie vendor, Cabbage Man in the animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender streaming on Netflix. Perhaps he will be the one to make people lust after cabbage once again.
I have a particular ‘yen’ for cabbage for a variety of reasons, not least because when I cooked shredded cabbage quickly in melted butter with a sprinkling of water on my first Simply Delicious cooking series, it caused a sensation… The method was a revelation for the many cooks who hadn’t ever thought of cooking cabbage in any way, other than in a large pot of water for a long time…
So, you can be famous for just one thing, could be your cabbage!
More recently, we’ve discovered how delicious roast cabbage can be with crispy charred edges. Couldn’t be easier, just cut in wedges, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil., season all over with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and maybe a few chilli flakes. Roast in a hot oven to 220˚C/425˚F until tender inside, turning occasionally to brown evenly.
We’ve got lots of cabbage salad recipes, try this one, I love the sweetness of the sultanas and the freshness of the dill and then there’s the crunch of the roasted almonds…
Cabbage rolls take a little more effort to make but they are so comforting and delicious, try these, They have an Asian as opposed to a Transylvanian flavour which I also love.
And how about making your own sauerkraut… It’s really, really easy to do and will open up a whole new world and greatly enhance your gut biome which as you know impacts both and on our physical and mental health.
Cabbage is also the main ingredient in kimchi but it’s better to use Chinese cabbage for that so in this column we will focus on ordinary cabbage…
Cabbage, cooked to melting tenderness in bacon water, is just wonderful folded or beaten into soft potato mash to make one of our most delicious traditional dishes, colcannon. It also makes a delicious soup which always surprises and then converts the most ardent cabbage haters…
Penny Allen’s Ballymaloe Basic Sauerkraut
At its most basic sauerkraut is chopped or shredded cabbage that is salted and fermented in its own juice. It has existed in one form or another for thousands of years and sailors have carried it on ships to ward off scurvy because of its high Vitamin C content.
800g (1 3/4lb) of cabbage
600g (1 1/4lbs) of cabbage plus
200g (7oz) of mixture of any of the following: grated carrot, turnip, celeriac, onion
3 level teaspoons sea salt
1 x 1 litre Kilner jar or similar
Small jar to act as a weight inside the lid of the 1 litre jar
Wash the cabbage if it’s muddy. Take off any damaged outside leaves. Quarter the cabbage, core it and then finely shred each quarter.
Mix the cabbage and the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hands, scrunch cabbage and other vegetables with the salt until you begin to feel the juices being released. Continue for a few minutes. Pack a little at a time you’re your Kilner jar and press down hard using your fist – this packs the kraut tight and helps force more water out of the vegetables. Fill the Jar about 80% full to leave room for liquid that will come out of the vegetables as it starts to ferment.
Place a clean weight on top of cabbage (a small jar works well). This weight is to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine. This is the most important thing to get your ferment off to the right start. (Under the brine, all will be fine!)
Sit the jar on a plate just in case some brine escapes while it is
fermenting. Place on a countertop to ferment at room temperature for at
least 3 weeks and up to 6 weeks. As you
eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the
vegetables under the brine and sealing well.
It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time.
Once you have opened it, it’s best to keep it in the fridge where it will last
The flavour of this quickly cooked cabbage has been a revelation for many and has converted numerous determined cabbage haters back to Ireland’s national vegetable.
450g (1lb) fresh Savoy cabbage
25g (1oz) butter or more if you like
salt and freshly ground pepper
a knob of butter
Remove the tough outer leaves and divide the cabbage into four. Cut out the stalks and then cut each section into fine shreds across the grain. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and the knob of butter. Serve immediately.
Riffs on Buttered Cabbage
Cabbage with Caraway Seeds
Add 1-2 tablespoons of caraway seeds to the cabbage and toss constantly as above.
Cabbage with Crispy Bacon
Fry 2-3 streaky rashers in a little oil while the cabbage cooks, then cut into strips and add to the cabbage at the end.
Add 3 teaspoons or more of fresh thyme leaves.
Cabbage with Sichuan Peppercorns
Add 1 teaspoon of highly crushed Sichuan peppercorns to taste.
Charred Cabbage with Katuobushi
If you haven’t got katuobushi, just serve the charred cabbage without, it’ll still be delicious.
Charred cabbage is a revelation, who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift this humble vegetable into a whole new cheffy world. Lots of sauces and dressings work well with charred cabbage but I love this combination. Katuobushi are shaved bonita flakes. Bonita is a type of tuna. Buy some – you’ll soon be addicted and find lots of ways to use it up. Delicious either as a starter or as a side.
1 medium sized cabbage
1 tablespoon light olive oil or a neutral oil
50-110g (2-4oz) butter
Katuobushi flakes (optional)
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim the cabbage. Cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size.
Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 4.
Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on a medium heat until well seared on both cut surfaces, add butter to the pan. When the butter melts and becomes ‘noisette’, spoon the melted butter over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with sea salt, cover and continue to cook, basting regularly for about 10 minutes. Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure it’s tender through.
Add some Katuobushi flakes (if using) to the butter and baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle some more Katuobushi flakes over the top and serve immediately.
In Ireland all cultures that have cabbage and potatoes put them together in some form. In Ireland we have colcannon, in England Bubble and Squeak but the Scottish version is called Rumbledethumps.
450g (1lb) freshly mashed potatoes
225g (8oz) kale or spring cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped spring onion
150ml (5fl oz) cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the cabbage in a little boiling salted water, drain well. If cooking kale, cook in a large pan of boiling salted water (6 pints water to 3 teaspoon salt).
Put the cream into a large pot with the spring onion, bring slowly to the boil, add the potatoes and freshly cooked cabbage. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes. To taste, you could add a lump of butter if you like – the Scots do!
Scrunched Cabbage Salad with Sultanas, Roasted Almonds and Dill
We use the same massaging technique here as I use for kale salad with deliciously juicy results.
250g (9oz) green cabbage, tough outer leaves discarded
1 teaspoon approx. salt
1 scallion, thinly sliced
5g picked dill (plus extra for sprinkling)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
1/2 clove garlic, finely grated
1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar (more if needed)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
40g (1 1/2oz) sultanas
40g (1 1/2oz) almonds, chopped coarsely
If necessary, remove the outer leaves and use for crispy seaweed. Cut the cabbage in quarters through the core. Discard the core and any very tough ribs. Separate the leaves and tear or cut into 5-7.5cm (2-3 inch) pieces. Put into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and toss. Allow to sit until it feels wet (a couple of minutes), then massage the leaves until they’re very tender and juicy, 1-2 minutes. The leaves will look glossy and slightly translucent. Drain off the liquid.
Add the sliced scallions (reserve some for garnish), dill sprigs, lemon juice, sugar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add the sultanas and toss thoroughly to combine. Taste and correct the seasoning and add more sugar if necessary. Transfer to a serving dish and set aside.
the remaining olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the coarsely unskinned almonds and stir
until beginning to colour, about 2 minutes.
Spoon over the salad and serve.
Crispy Cabbage aka Crispy Seaweed
A bit confusing but this is what Chinese restaurants serve as ‘crispy seaweed’.
oil for frying
Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage, remove the stalks, roll the dry leaves into a cigar shape and slice into the thinnest possible shreds with a very sharp knife.
Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 180˚C/350˚F.
Toss in some cabbage and cook for just a few seconds. As soon as it starts to crisp, remove and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt and sugar. Toss and serve as a garnish on Cabbage Soup or just nibble, it’s quite addictive – worse than peanuts or popcorn!