ArchiveApril 7, 2024

Cabbage is having a moment…

Guess it was bound to happen at some stage, but cabbage, the humble crucifer is definitely having a moment on the US food scene. I’ve recently come back from a few hectic days around the Saint Patrick’s Day period in New York. I did several events to help promote Ireland and spread the news about the revolution on the Irish food scene. Despite my best efforts, many who haven’t actually been to Ireland still think we live on corned beef and cabbage, but those who have visited tell me, usually in incredulous tones about how surprised they are to find such good food from the gastro pubs to Michelin starred high-end restaurants, definitely a positive development.
While I was in the New York area, I was anxious to taste as many delicious meals as I could manage to fit in, all in the way of research!
So what’s trending stateside? Well, virtually every restaurant had cabbage on the menu in one or several different forms…Food and Wine Magazine has several articles on it, The New York Times recently devoted an entire page to cabbage, “The darling of the culinary crowd”.
When you think about it, this long overlooked and overcooked vegetable ticks all the boxes. Plentiful and cheap, it keeps well, has a long shelf life and is loaded with nutrients. Super versatile cabbage can be served in a myriad of ways, cooked or uncooked, hot or cold, fermented and pickled. Kimchi and sauerkraut and their gut friendly reputation has certainly helped in no small way to spread the word.
Apparently China grows the most, Russia eats the most per capita.
Cabbage allows the chef to be super creative – roast, chargrilled, boiled, stir fried, deep fried…Suddenly chefs are praising its versatility, taste and texture plus it’s good for the bottom line during these challenging times.
I’m loving this renaissance. For as long as I can remember, cabbage was considered one of the most unglamorous vegetables in the vegetable firmament – now it’s one of the hippest items across the US.

Cabbage is super cool; wouldn’t that just amuse our Grannies!
And it’s good news for the farmers too. There are three major types of cabbage, green, red and Savoy with its textured curly leaves but there’s also Napa cabbage, pointy nosed caraflex and flattened ‘tendersweets’ with their loosely packed crisp, thin leaves – all are part of the brassica, oleracea family. Cabbage is related to broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, so unsurprisingly it’s high in vitamins, has numerous health benefits and considerable anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage has been part of the world’s cooking history, not least our own here in Ireland forever.
Now chefs are using it in and on everything from tacos to pizza toppings, chargrilling wedges in wood burning ovens, mixing it with luxurious ingredients, basting in butter and exotic spices, sprinkling with gochujang and on and on.
Here are three recipes you might like to try.

A Spring Chicken in a Pot

If asparagus is in season, slice 4-6 trimmed spears at an angle and add them to the pot 4-5 minutes before the end of the cooking time for extra deliciousness in this spring pot. Florets of Romanesco in season are another of my top additions to this dish.

Serves 6

6 large organic, free-range chicken thighs or drumsticks

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

450ml homemade chicken stock

12 small new potatoes

a sprig of thyme

1 Hispi or spring cabbage, finely sliced

150g peas, podded weight

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

4 spring onions, sliced

2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4–5 tbsp double cream or crème fraîche (optional)

Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a 4.2 litre heavy casserole over a high-ish heat, add the chicken and brown them lightly on all sides.

Stir in the onions, then add the well-flavoured stock, potatoes and a nice sprig of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprig, add the cabbage and simmer gently for a further 5-6 minutes, uncovered. Add the peas and tarragon and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in half of the spring onions and parsley, saving the rest to scatter over the top. Season to taste, add the cream or crème fraîche (if using) and serve.

Charred Cabbage with Smoked Paprika, Parsley and Toasted Hazelnuts

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.  I love this with smoked paprika and hazelnuts. Serve as a side or as a separate course.

Serves 4-6

½ – 1 medium cabbage

1 tbsp light olive oil or a neutral oil

110g butter

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

125g toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Trim the cabbage. Cut into four or six wedges depending on the size.

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 for 5 minutes or until well seared on one side. Flip over onto the other and continue to cook until both surfaces are well charred. Add butter to the pan. When the butter melts and becomes pale ‘noisette’, spoon all over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and continue to baste regularly until tender.  Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure it’s tender through.

Add the smoked paprika and some of the chopped parsley to the butter and baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Scatter some coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts and the remaining parsley over the top and serve immediately. 

Cabbage, Parsnip and Cabbage with Mustard Seed

Try this Keralan cabbage recipe, deliciously perked up with a little chilli spice and lots of freshly chopped parsley.

Serves 6

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp black mustard seeds

1 chilli, seeded and chopped

225g carrots, coarsely grated

225g parsnip, coarsely grated

225g cabbage, finely shredded against the grain

2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

2 tbsp freshly chopped mint

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the mustard seeds. They will start to pop almost instantly. Add the chopped chilli and stir and cook for a minute or so. Add the carrots, parsnips and cabbage. Toss over a medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, then add the parsley and mint and toss again. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little sugar. Add the lemon juice, taste and correct seasoning. Serve immediately.


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