Roasted savoy cabbage charred in the skillet and then baked in the oven for 20 minutes, my childhood throwback and one of the best, less common side dishes for fish or pork.
Savoy cabbage - my childhood throwback
I didn’t like many vegetables when I was a kid. I was a very obedient child so even though carrots frightened me, lettuce made me retch and broccoli gave me nightmares, I’d chew and swallow my hateful sides with my dinners. My mother wasn’t a very skilled cook, let’s put it mildly, and my father supported the ‘don’t have what you like, like what you have’ parenting style.
Grated carrot salad – bleurgh, still not keen on grated carrot. Spinach was acceptable only when mushed into mashed potatoes. Cauliflower used to be boiled until almost dissolved so when I first encountered roasted cauli I thought it was an entirely different vegetable.
But savoy cabbage marked the day with a white stone. It was rather vile to my present mind: overcooked, under-seasoned and limp and grey. But it was the only vegetable I liked and that’s to say a lot.
The savoy would arrive in quarters, like in my recipe here, but it had been plainly braised on the hob instead of infused with herbs in the oven. The herbs there were none to infuse it. There was just limp garlic clinging to the leaves and far too little salt and pepper. I adored the dish.
This recipe takes me back but it’s really good, I say with relief. Frankly, cooking better than my mum did isn’t a difficult trick (no offence, Mum – you said it yourself!). So savoy cabbage is still one of my favourite vegetables only I can cook it so much better.
Can you eat savoy cabbage raw?
It looks posher and more refined than its red, green or white aka hammerhead cousins. It’s vibrant green in colour and interestingly bubbly in texture. It spreads its outer leaves expansively and looks appetising enough to eat raw.
That would be a mistake though: appearances deceive and savoy cabbage is exceptionally tough and fibrous raw. It needs quite a bit of cooking, braising, roasting – or shredding finely and stir frying energetically with lots of heat.
It is lovely stuffed with meat or rice, an East European take on dolmados, Greek stuffed vine leaves. The savoy texture is actually so close to vine leaves that I wonder who copied who.
How to cook savoy cabbage?
I like the combination of charring it until nearly burnt and then sousing it with stock and braising in the oven. Cut into wedges, quarters or eights depending on the size of the head, it is seared on all sides in a frying pan with only a little oil.
The oven braising stage, with stock and butter, needs covering with a lid. No ovenproof pan with a matching lid? Transferring the cabbage from a frying pan to a lidded casserole is pointless faff so in the worst case you can cover your pan with a baking tray.
And then the last stage: the wonderful topping of breadcrumbs, herbs and Parmesan (which is so good I call them magic breadcrumbs and sprinkle over veg liberally and often) lands on the cabbage wedges and bakes there for a few final minutes.
It is a side dish but it’s really good enough to be a standalone centrepiece for supper or for a weekend lunch, with some crusty bread to mop us the juices.