Dispelling the myth of cabbage
by Shu han
It’s January and February; the worst of the winter months, when the sun is perpetually in hiding and everything is pretty much a variant of the colour grey. Christmas is over, and so is the New Year, and there’s just nothing much to look forward to. Things get pretty dull. I escape to the kitchen as it’s where I know I can get warmth and a little bit of excitement.
And I’ve been very excited about cabbage lately, using it in all manners of recipes. I see you wrinkling your nose already. I know it hardly evokes a sense of awe; it’s plain, old-fashioned and conjures up horrible memories of sulphurous, soggy school lunches. But it need not be any of that. It’s one of the most versatile vegetables around, and each of its many varieties offers something slightly different.
The savoy cabbage just begs to be stuffed; it’s large and the beautifully-creased outer leaves serve as the perfect wrap. They’re delicious sliced thinly into noodle-like ribbons and tossed in a quick stir-fry, or added at the last minute to a warming stew. Of course, this works with any of your favourite cabbages; they all stay lovely and crisp as long as you remember not to cook the life out of them. An exception is the red cabbage, absolutely yummy slow-braised with apples and spices. And if you’ve got too many cabbages on hand, why not make kimchi, the fiery Korean pickled-cabbage alternative to sauerkraut?
Sure, it’s easy to get seduced by the summery tomatoes and tender spinach on the supermarket shelves flown in from the sunnier lands we pine for, but have a taste of that and compare it to the taste of a fresh, seasonal British cabbage and you’ll see why I get excited about this humble vegetable.
Dim-Sum Style Steamed Cabbage Dumplings
I’ve stuffed the cabbage leaves with the classic dim sum filling of pork and spring onions, but you can play around with whatever meat you like, or even make it vegetarian. I’ve made ‘pseud-dolmades’ in a similar fashion by wrapping the leaves of spring cabbage greens around rice, toasted nuts, sweet raisins, and lots of fresh herbs.
Makes 10 cabbage rolls
- 5 large cabbage leaves (Savoy varieties like the January King are good, but any would do)
- 300g minced outdoor-bred British pork 1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
- 1⁄2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped 1 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally brewed and fermented)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil Generous dash of white pepper
- Dipping sauce
- 1 tbsp good soy sauce 1 tbsp black rice vinegar
- In a large bowl, mix the ginger, soy sauce, pepper and sesame oil with the pork, stirring vigorously in one direction until the mixture comes together. Another tip is to also gather the ball of mixture and slap it back down into the bowl repeatedly for a better springier texture. Stir in the spring onions and leave to marinade.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage leaves so they become more flexible and easy to work with. Refresh in cold water and pat dry. Slice each leaf into half, removing the hard stalk in the meanwhile.
- To wrap, place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of the leaf wrapper. Bring the bottom up, the sides together, and then roll away from you, till you get a nice tight cabbage roll.
- Arrange the cabbage dumplings on a lined bamboo steamer, or you can simply use a plate set over a steaming rack. Steam for 8-10 minutes untill cooked. Serve warm with the soy-vinegar dipping sauce.
If you would like to find out more about any of the recipes I mentioned but didn’t have the chance and space to share, just do a search on my blog – Mummy, I can cook!