Stir fried cabbage with bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms takes only half an hour to cook, including shredding and chopping. It's a gorgeous combo - and cabbage is so underrated!
It is not a sentiment shared with many, but cabbage just might be my favourite vegetable. I am quite generous in my taste: pointy, loosely packed spring cabbage I like the best, but Savoy cabbage and red follow a short distance behind. I can only find hardly any use for those hard white, boring heads of white winter cabbage but it serves well to make sauerkraut.
Cabbage is underrated
Cabbage salad, raw shredded vegetable lightly softened with salt, seasoned as you wish, is a healthy source of vitamin C and a better dinner accompaniment than lettuce.
Cabbage ferments like an angel too, turning into sauerkraut in a matter of days which is a miracle for gut health.
Cabbage can be stir fried because it is an absolute myth that it has to be boiled for hours. And it can even be baked, like the Christmas red cabbage with wine and plums or the Swedish style kalpudding, caramelised cabbage.
Cabbage does not smell, it’s a horrid myth. To be precise, it might if you cooked it for hours with nothing but water added. But cabbage doesn’t need long cooking – the fact that you can eat it raw is evidence.
Cabbage with bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms: main or side?
So, is this a side or a main dish? It can be both: I love nothing more than this cabbage with just a few new potatoes, lightly buttered. Another good pairing is with plain pasta, or, best of all, those gorgeous German and Austrian noodles, Spaetzle. But my cabbage could also be served as a side to fish or chicken with perhaps a little lower bacon content – unless you’re very hungry.
Make it with overripe tomatoes
I make it usually when I have a bunch of wilty-looking tomatoes, the riper the better. This is also how you make the gorgeous tomato butter, the sauce-condiment of smashed stewed cherry tomatoes drowned in lots of butter and seasoned with smoked paprika. Incidentally, smoked paprika goes with tomatoes like mint goes with peas.
What herbs go with cabbage?
And dill is an unfairly underused herb. They know its value in Persia for example, always adding it to rice dishes and to salads; and in Northern and Central Europe where dill goes wherever potatoes or cabbage go. So I’m listing two tablespoons of chopped dill here rather conservatively – I usually chop up half a bunch into my cabbage dishes.
Cabbage loves butter
Do not be alarmed by the double whammy of fat here: there’s rendered bacon fat and rather a lot of butter on top of it. But cabbage likes lots of fat and without it it tends to be tough and less tasty.
Mushrooms are arguably optional but the whole combo is better with them in it.
And finally, make sure the cabbage retains quite a bit of a bite: this isn’t a braise but effectively a stir fry. Cabbage must not turn mushy – that’s how cabbage dishes get a bad name.