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Cabbage goodness

Sun, 7 November, 2021

Apart from the somewhat passé cabbage soup diet, which like all the fads is a silly way of trying to lose weight, cabbage the vegetable does not belong with the trendy crowd.

It never reached the heights of fame of its cousin cauliflower, which about 2019 was seriously threatened with a shortage due to the cauliflower steak and cauliflower rice manias. It doesn’t get the attention of top chefs who make fancy dishes out of celeriac. Even carrots and beetroot enjoy more popularity as at least they can be made into cakes. And poor old spring green or Savoys cannot possibly aspire to the stardom that one of the brassica family, kale, (totally undeservedly IMHO) enjoys.

The treatment dished out to poor cabbage over the centuries probably didn’t help: boiled for hours until it smells horrible, mashed in with potatoes to conceal it (colcannon) or chopped roughly and smothered with gloopy mayo (coleslaw).

But I suspect it’s mainly the name that puts people off: to be called a cabbage is not exactly a complement. In fact, I struggle to think of another vegetable so disdained.

The word ‘cabbage’ derives from Norman French ‘caboche’ which means ‘head’. That in turn comes from the Latin ‘caput’, also meaning ‘head’. Calling someone a cabbage head is then not only rude, but a tautology. It gets worse - a cabbage insultingly describes a brain-damaged or mentally incapacitated person. It also used to be a slang expression for stealing.

The English language doesn’t hold the vegetable in high esteem; the French redeem it in the ‘mon petit chou’ endearment. The Germans had a chancellor called Kohl so they don’t snigger. And even America respects cabbage – it’s slang for paper money.

And it is such a good, healthy and versatile vegetable! Spring green cabbage makes a great, quick and crunchy salad. Alternatively, you can salt it and let it ferment ever so slightly before making another version of the cabbage salad – and we know how fermented foods are a marvel for gut health. Why not go the whole hog anyway, and make sauerkraut or kimchi at home? Your gut microbiome with be super grateful.

If you want to use it in a coleslaw, do it in a healthy way – with yoghurt and lemon juice instead of buckets of mayo. Or try the Vietnamese salad of cabbage with prawns, that can make a lovely lunch dish or a light supper.

You can cook cabbage quickly by stir frying it and even make it into a full main course, by adding bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms. But it is equally delicious cooked for a long, long time, turning crispy and caramelised. That’s a method I swiped off the Swedish kalpudding – the best meat(-and-cabbage-)loaf in the world!

It works in baked dishes, like potato and cabbage gratin or my quirky take on lasagne, with cabbage between the pasta layers.

And don’t forget other types: red, for a festive side or a jar of fermented goodness, and Savoy which is gorgeous oven roasted.

Keep warm and well – and cook delightful, autumnal cabbage dishes!

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About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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