Saturday, 29 January 2011

Quick Braised Red Cabbage

Cabbage has got to be one of the most underrated vegetables out there. It seems to get easily associated with poverty or extreme diets, and therefore is viewed as a food of deprivation--something you eat only because you can't eat anything else.

Well, you're all wrong, you cabbage classifiers. Cabbage is highly nutritious and extremely tasty, especially if it's raw or cooked gently (not boiled into submission!). Cabbage, the plant, is a brassica, or cruciferous vegetable (which I like better because it sounds like a refreshing crunch of fresh veggies!). This means it is related to broccoli and cauliflower and turnips (like Mimi) and a few other common veggies. Cabbage is rich in Vitamin C (good for building collagenous tissue like your gums and for turning food into energy, which you will need if you are to meet your daily recommended allowance of playtime) and Vitamin K (good for healthy bones and blood so you can heal any playtime injuries more quickly, and thus be back in peak playtime condition sooner). It also contains lots of fiber, which is good for your bum. You might not want to think about it, but having a healthy bum is very important!

Cabbage is also very tasty, easy to cook, and (mums and dads, take note) not very expensive at all. It can easily be added to soups in the last 10 minutes of cooking or stir-fried or sauteed or gently steamed for a quick side dish.

Or you can braise it, which takes a little longer. Braising cabbage does destroy some of the Vitamin C and other healthy things in it, but it retains lots of good things, and tastes very nice. And it's dark pink! Very pretty stuff. Click here for the recipe.

Dear children: Under NO circumstances whatsoever are you to cook anything without a grownup. Also, no touching the knives. Slicing and chopping are done by grownups only because knives can be dangerous. Auntie Megan will show you the scar on her thumb where she nearly lopped it off slicing a bagel when she was a teenager if you don't believe her.

Auntie Megan's Quick Braised Red Cabbage

Notes: The pictures below show me making half as much as I suggest in the ingredients. This is because Auntie Megan and Uncle James are only two people, and much as we love cabbage, there's only so much we can handle at once.

1 large onion or 2 leeks
1 Tbsp fat (olive oil, vegetable oil, or Auntie Megan's personal favorite for this dish: bacon fat)
1 small head red cabbage
1 tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh
1/4 cup vinegar (Auntie Megan uses either sherry or red wine, but rice, cider, or malted is fine. Not balsamic, though)
1-2 tsp honey or brown sugar to taste
Pinch of salt
A few grinds of black pepper

Peel the onion and thinly slice. If you are using leeks, trim the ends, leaving just the white and light green part. Slice in half the long way and then rinse under cold water, making sure to get in between the layers, especially at the green end. There's usually a bit of sandy soil caught in there. Then slice thinly. Set aside.

Peel the outer leaves of the cabbage away and discard. Slice the bottom off, and then cut the cabbage in half from the top down. Slice out the hard core and discard. Slice the cabbage thinly. Apparently you can shred cabbage in a food processor, but I've never tried it. Either way, slice away. When you're done, it will look like you have a MOUNTAIN of cabbage, but I promise it will cook down to a more reasonable quantity.

Heat the oil or fat in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Like this:

When it's hot (but not smoking), add the onion/leeks, and stir to coat. Cook until soft. It doesn't matter much if they brown, but that's not the object. 

At this point, I should note that I do not have a fancy camera or a light box, so my photos are standard. I do my best. If you want gorgeous, drool-worthy photos of food (and you do, believe me), I highly recommend smitten kitchen for bold and bright pictures, or Cannelle et Vanille for a softer, more magazine-y selection.

Right. Onward.

After the onion/leeks are soft, add the thyme and as much of the cabbage as you can shove in there, and gently turn until mixed in with the leeks and oil.

Turn the heat to medium-low and cover for a few minutes, until the cabbage is a bit softer. Then add the rest of the cabbage, cover, and soften for another 2 or 3 minutes. 

Add the vinegar, sugar/honey, and salt and pepper. Stir and cover. Cook gently for 10 minutes. If there is still lots of watery stuff at the bottom of the pan after the cabbage is cooked, uncover and crank the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring until it has reduced to the desired consistency (sort of a light sauciness--not syrupy or dry).  Et voilĂ :

Steamy pink braised cabbage! There should be more than enough for four hungry people when you're done. Auntie Megan and Uncle James eat it alongside broiled, smoky Toulouse-style sausages. We eat just a giant pile of cabbage with our sausages, which is very nice, but if you require something starchy, mashed potatoes are probably your best bet.

**For veg*n braised cabbage, use vegetable oil and unrefined sugar.

Feeling adventurous?

This recipe can be adjusted in lots of ways to make it tastier or different. Try adding 6 crushed juniper berries with the onions for an herbal aroma. Generously sprinkle some ground coriander in with the vinegar and sugar to give it a meatier flavor (coriander is the main spice used to flavor hotdogs, so it will provide a weird and delicious smoky flavor to your cabbage, and will make it even nicer with sausages). You can even add a sprinkle of whole cumin seeds and a dash of turmeric with the onions to give it a wacky color and a curried flavor. A splash of soy sauce or worcestershire will give it a savory edge, but if you're using bacon fat, I'd skip these. Go crazy with the spice cupboard and see what happens.

1 comment:

  1. Auntie Megan - you're a star! I had a few chuckles reading your very sensible advice to juniors - I will let my cabbage-phobe boys read your blog and I'll let you know if they then agree to try it! Looking forward to your next instalment.