Winter cabbage recipe
I’ve always been a firm believer that the best of home cooking comes when the nights draw in; the days get colder and gloomier; and all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a plate or bowl of something delicious and comforting. Considering that British weather brings us the opportunity to indulge in this practice for most of the year, regardless of the seasons sometimes, means we can take some great produce and make meals that make you feel warm to your bones.
This love of nourishment through cooking has been an integral part of my development as a cook. From a young age I can recall being in the kitchen with my Mum, cooking classics like Cottage Pie or Stew and Dumplings; then later daring to follow the trends of TV chefs like Gordon Ramsey or Heston Bleumenthal. Throughout all this exploration, there was always one theme that stayed true to my cooking and still does to this day - always show the maximum amount of love in each plate of food. For me, cooking is always about intention and attention. My foremost goal is to create an eating experience that others take pleasure in and I always strive to achieve this by giving the elements of that dish the respect and attention they deserve. Questions I always ask myself when putting together a dish are simple: Do the flavours balance? Do the textures balance? Does the whole dish do justice to its parts? If I can answer yes to these questions, then I’m happy.
For me, using seasonal vegetables is a great way to answer the final question of my cooking process. Starting with great ingredients is a driver to creating balanced, delicious meals and it’s important to showcase and enhance them when they’re at their seasonal best. I believe I have done so with this winter cabbage recipe. I have really tried to showcase the splendor of this humble vegetable, cooking around it to further enhance that bittersweet brassica brilliance. There are a few elements to this dish, however at its core is how to cook the cabbage. I love cooking cabbage on the heart, there’s no need to throw it away. It keeps the structure of those beautiful corrugated leaves intact and gives a substantial quality to a vegetable that can sometimes be a side player. I hope you enjoy it.
Charred Cabbage with Cheesy Polenta, Pickled Pear and Toasted Walnuts
Prep: 10 - 15 minutes
Cook: 30 - 35 minutes
● Winter Cabbage - half of, cut into 4 wedges.
● Dry Cider - 330ml bottle
● Water - 400ml
● Butter - 100g
● Fennel Seeds - 1 ½ tsp
● Bay Leaves - 3
● Dried Sage - 1 tsp
● Salt - 1 tsp
● Polenta - 100g
● Vegetable Stock - 300ml
● Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
● Mature Cheddar - 50g, grated
● Chives - 1 tbsp, finely chopped
● Williams Pear - 1, cubed
● Cider Vinegar - 50ml
● Sugar - 50g
● Water - 100ml
● Salt - ½ tsp
● Peppercorns - ½ tsp
● Walnuts - handful
Start by pickling the pear. Add the vinegar, water, salt, sugar and peppercorns into the pan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot liquid over the pears and allow to steep until cooling to room temperature. Transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate for later.
Add the walnuts to a dry pan, toast on medium high heat - stirring regularly - until the walnuts have begun to darken slightly, as well as releasing their oil and fragrance. Remove from the pan and leave to cool.
Add the cider to a lidded casserole dish or stock pot, cook on high heat until the alcohol smell has evaporated and the liquid has reduced by half. Pour in the water and add fennel seeds, bay leaves, dried sage and salt. Bring to a boil, melt in the butter then add the cabbage wedges, one cut side down. Reduce the heat to a simmer and place a lid on the pot. The cabbage should be ⅓ - ½ submerged in the braising liquor. Allow the cabbage to braise with the lid on for at least 15 minutes, or until the heart is tender.
Whilst the cabbage is braising, bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan. Add the olive oil and then slowly pour in the polenta to the boiling stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. When the polenta begins to thicken, place on a lid and reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning. Allow to cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the grated cheese and chopped chives. Replace the lid, remove from the heat and allow to sit whilst finishing the cabbage.
Remove the cabbage from the braising liquor and drain on kitchen paper. Heat a dry frying pan or griddle pan on medium high heat. Drizzle a little oil over one of the cut sides of the cabbage wedges and place each into the pan to begin charring the leaves slightly. Don’t be tempted to move the cabbage in the pan, just leave it to do its thing. After 2-3 minutes, flip and repeat the process on the other side.
To serve, place a nice mound of cheesy polenta in the middle of your plate. Nestle the charred cabbage wedges on top and drizzle with a little braising liquor. Place the little pieces of pickled pear around the edges and sprinkle over the toasted walnuts. And that’s it, enjoy.
Matt is a chef and a catering manager at Oasis, Cardiff. Follow him at on Instagram @matts_eatcyclopedia