The humble cabbage is not as tedious or boring as we make out. It is one of the best and most delicious vegetables and it is one that can be eaten whatever the time of the year. Braised cabbage is a posher way of boiling it. It does seem to have a special place in the cuisine of many when we’re short of vegetables to grow and harvest in late autumn, winter and early spring.
If you are interested we have an extensive section on growing this vegetable (Growing Cabbage) as we like to discuss types, growing conditions and so on – we just want you to really enjoy this vegetable. We think a variety like Savoy cabbage is ideal but varieties like Greyhound should always be considered too. Don’t dismiss kale including Cavolo Nero either because that is also a superb leaf.
You can cook cabbage on its own and there is nothing wrong with that. You do need a good boiling pan of salted water and to add the shredded cabbage to it which is then just cooked for a few minutes. Any longer and the air fills with something objectionable and the vegetable is overdone.
Braising is the method of choice for cabbage. Other chefs including Jamie Oliver have excellent recipes for this dish using smoked bacon and peas that elevate cabbage to the point of deliciousness. Check out the recipe book The Naked Chef (page 145 in the original) which tells you how to do it. he suggests using a range of greens from different cabbages and I bet other greens too just to add variety. The bacon and peas simply add extra depth.
Serve this braised cabbage with any roasted poultry including game especially pheasant. It would also work with a Christmas dinner and of course at Thanksgiving. I use the cabbage leaves to mop up the gravy.
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Braised Cabbage with Smoked Bacon And Peas
- A savoy cabbage but you can use brussel sprout tops, kale, spring greens even pak choi if you had a mind to.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 250g or about 6 rashers of dry-cured smoked bacon chopped into lengths of about 3/8in.
- 1½ clove of garlic which has been finely chopped
- 500g frozen green peas although fresh peas would be better.
- 200 – 300 ml (½ pint) chicken stock/vegetable stock otherwise it is just water
- 50g/2oz butter or even a dairy-free spread
- You should try a spoonful of freshly chopped rosemary to be honest as this really adds some oomph
- 2 tbps fresh herbs of your choice such as thyme, mint, parsley, basil etc., but it’s optional.
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
The cabbage leaves need to be fresh and green as possible. The best way is to rest the cabbage in a tub of water and let all the insects and slugs and snails float out. Don’t use any yellowing, wilted or even those leaves that have been slightly eaten. Cut out the tough stem and wash them as thoroughly as possible. Works a treat!
Roughly chop these leaves and place in a bowl of cold water to one side.
- Cut the bacon into small lengths and chop up the garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the bacon for a few minutes until crispy.
- Add the garlic and rosemary then gently sauté for 3 minutes.
- Pour in the stock, bring to the boil. Have the pan lid ready to place after the leaves are added.
- Add the outer dark green leaves first so they get most of the cooking and then continue a little later with the more tender leaves. Put on lid. You could however add just enough stock to cover the leaves and rely on steaming the vegetable but I think it feels more secure to make sure the greens are covered completely when cooking. If you are using kale then it needs another few minutes of braising as this is a tougher leaf to cook with.
- Simmer which is effectively braising for a minute just to get everything cooking.
- Add the peas along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer for another 10 minutes but just check if you can get away with less time by tasting one or two shreds for their tenderness or a pea or two. It may take up to 15 minutes!
- Turn the heat off. Stir in the butter and any other herbs if you want along with any seasoning such as salt and black pepper, then serve.