crispy caramelised cabbage
Thu, 2 January, 2020
This is the best cabbage dish: crispy and caramelised, first fried and then baked green cabbage Swedish style, shredded and cooked to perfection.
Boring vegetables must work harder
Nations that historically have not suffered from plenitude of interesting vegetables have learnt to be inventive with what they have. Aubergines and red peppers are sexy enough to be simply thrown onto hot grill and charred a little, then soused with olive oil. Where's the creativity with that?
Cabbage, parsnips, squash and their relations have to work much harder to earn culinary regard. Barbecued parsnips? Erm - no, and anyway it's far too cold and wet for a barbecue. Roasted parsnip however, with burnt stickiness of honey, is a delight. Likewise cabbage: it needs an inventive recipe.
The curse of being cabbage
Cabbage! how sexy does it sound? Not sexy at all, in fact I’d say thoroughly un-sexy. Even red cabbage or spring cabbage or savoy – they all suffer from the ‘cabbage’ moniker.
Being a cabbage is much worse than being an onion and cabbage soup is the one redeeming dish; still, only appealing to the diet brigade. How often have you encountered cabbage as a side in seven course tasting menus? Even if, it was disguised as ‘hispi’, ‘shredded greens’ or ‘pickles’.
I like to try and redeem cabbage anyway: my spring cabbage salad is an attempt to promote the veg suggesting it to the fermentation zealots. It’s wholesome, it tastes good raw, it has as much Vitamin C as oranges; it had been known to prevent scurvy in the past among the less privileged.
Can cabbage turn crisp?
‘Crispy’ and ‘caramelised’ are magic words for food bloggers, especially when Google search is concerned. Anything crispy or caramelised (or both) guarantees you hits and interest, perhaps unless it’s referring to tartare steaks*.
Crispy and caramelised will hopefully work its magic with cabbage: the poor vegetable sure needs rescue being stuck in the lower-class category. And above all, cooked cabbage can be unbelievably delicious.
Cook it down; it will caramelise over higher heat than you think. I know; there’s not much Vitamin C left in it after it’s been cooking for half an hour but it is still full of fibre and more importantly full of flavour. It is one of the best things to do to cabbage: those Swedes definitely know their way about the vegetable.
Swedish style cabbage
That's where I lifted this method of cooking cabbage: Swedish kalpudding is a meatloaf made from beef mince mixed with cooked cabbage, with more cabbage baked on top. I simply thought that way of preparing cabbage was so good it was a waste to save it solely for meatloaves.
*you might be surprised how fantastically well crispy capers and caramelised shallots will go with a steak tartare.
crispy caramelised cabbageServings: 4Time: 1 hour
- 30g (2 tbsp.) unsalted butter plus more for greasing the dish
- 1-2 heads spring cabbage, about 600g (about 1½ pound) when cored and shredded
- salt and black pepper
- 30g (2 tbsp.) honey
- ½ lemon, juice only
- ½ bunch of dill, finely chopped
1. Heat the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage when it’s foaming and sprinkle with salt. Stir it, pressing down if it barely fits in the pan, and it will soon start shrinking.
2. Add the honey and cook the cabbage over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 30 minutes until all liquid has cooked off and the cabbage has turned dry, brownish and threatens to catch the bottom of the pan.
3. By the end of the cooking process stir in most of the dill and lemon juice. Season with black pepper, taste and adjust the seasoning; it should balance the sweet, the salty and a hint of sour.
4. It will be delicious to serve as it is but it will get even better when caramelised and crisp. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas7. Butter a shallow gratin dish.
5. Scrape the cabbage to the prepared dish and press down lightly. Bake for about 20 minutes in the upper half of the oven until it is caramelised and browned on top, looking crisp and almost burnt around the edges.
6. Sprinkle with the remaining dill and serve immediately.