Basic cooking method
Firstly, take time to prepare and cut the cabbage carefully, it can make all the difference to the eating pleasure. Wash the cabbage well and then shake off the excess water but do not worry about drying it. Remove coarse central ribs then roll the leaves and slice them very finely.
Choose a heavy based pan with a close fitting lid and heat some olive oil in it until it is quite hot. Add the cabbage and stir with a wooden spatula until it is all coated in the oil. Now put the lid on and continue to cook over a reasonably high heat for a couple of minutes. Remove the lid and, depending on the quantity of cabbage you are cooking, it might be necessary to give it another stir and then a further minute of cooking. Now for the flavour variations:
Mustard Dressing – whisk together a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, salt and pepper with four tablespoons of olive oil. When the cabbage is cooked take the pan off the heat and pour on the dressing, turning the leaves over until they are evenly coated.
Herb Vinegar – a more subtle flavouring is simply to add a teaspoon of good herb vinegar to the cabbage just before it is cooked.
Pancetta – cook some diced pancetta in olive oil until it is crisp before adding the cabbage so that it cooks in a mixture of the pancetta fat and olive oil. You can also stir in a couple of tablespoons of cream at the end if you wish.
Garlic, Ginger and Soy– add crushed garlic and grated fresh ginger to the olive oil then finish the cabbage with soy sauce.
Onions and Juniper – this is good with game or liver. Slowly cook sliced onion in olive oil for 20-30 minutes so that it is soft but not brown. Crush a couple of juniper berries and add them to the onion then stir in the cabbage, put on the lid and turn the heat up.
1 large cabbage
Salt, ground black pepper and ground nutmeg
1 casserole dish – greased
Oven at 120C
Take off the outer leaves and coarse ribs then chop centre. Blanch all by placing in a large colander and running through with boiling water to wilt. Line the dish with outer leaves, then a third of the chopped cabbage followed by a thin layer of sausage meat that is seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue layering and finish with a layer of cabbage which is covered with a piece of buttered paper and a lid. Bake for 2½ hours at 120C.
Colcannon is a variant of the more widely eaten Champ, the difference being that Colcannon contains cabbage (usually kale) whilst Champ is flavoured instead with spring onions. There is a similarity to Bubble and Squeak in that the major ingredients are potatoes and cabbage, but whereas Bubble and Squeak is always fried, Colcannon is served as a pile of creamy mashed potato.
Approx 1lb of potatoes and the same weight of kale
5fl oz whole milk or cream
1 leek (or substitute spring onions or chives)
Salt and pepper
The aim is to produce a dry mashed potato and then incorporate warm milk or cream. Ideally, if the potatoes are of similar size, you should boil them with their skin still on. Otherwise peel and cut into similar sized chunks so that they cook at the same rate and you don’t get some breaking up before other pieces are cooked. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them, remove the skins and then leave them to dry in their own steam in a colander placed over the pan in which they were boiled.
At the same time cook the kale until it is tender – the time varies depending upon how young the kale is, but follow the basic method above. Melt some butter in a pan and for this recipe add the sliced leeks first and sweat them for a couple of minutes (if you are using spring onions or chives skip this bit and add them towards the end of cooking the kale). Then add the sliced kale and a tablespoon of water. Place the lid back on the pan and continue to sweat both vegetables until the kale is tender – with older kale this might take 10 minutes.
In a separate pan, heat the milk or cream.
Press the potato through a potato ricer into the warm milk, or if you do not have a ricer, mash the potatoes and then incorporate the warm milk gradually, stirring with a wooden spoon. Note that the milk must be warm for the two ingredients to meld smoothly – do not be tempted to use a food processor for this because it will release the starch in the potato and you will end up with a gluey mess.
Finally incorporate the cooked and chopped kale using a wooden spoon.
Serve with melted butter, either on the side of poured into a well made on top of the potato.
175g/6oz dark green cabbage leaves with the thick stems removed (Savoy or Cavolo Nero are ideal)
1 tsp sugar
Salt (salt with real seaweed mixed in is good)
25g/1oz crushed cashew or peanuts
After removing the thick stems from the cabbage leaves roll them up into a tight cigar shape and then shred them as finely as possible.
Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat and when it is really hot add the cabbage. Stir fry for about 2 minutes – no longer or it will begin to taste bitter. Alternatively you can cook briefly in a deep fat fryer.
Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Serve immediately topped with crushed peanuts or cashews.
Related article: Learning to Love Cabbage