When people think of ‘cabbage’, it’s normally white cabbage they are thinking of. This divisive vegetable has been a victim of many negative connotations - smelly, bland, liable to be overcooked etc.. Which is a great shame, because when it is cooked with care, white cabbage is beautiful - sweet, lightly crunchy and earthy. And it can also be served raw - especially to make coleslaw or in salads - while pickling or fermenting it - as with sauerkraut and choucroute - can produce wonderful results, too.
White cabbage is at its best in December but is available from September.
The light green leaves of white cabbage should be tightly packed in a round ball shape and the cabbage should be heavy rather than light. The outer leaves should show no sign of bruising or variations in colour.
As with red cabbage, white cabbage benefits from uncomplicated cooking techniques such as steaming or stir-frying. Shredded cabbage leaves can be braised in a stock or white wine for around 5 minutes to retain a slight bite or for longer to bring out its natural sweetness.
Steaming is another popular method because both texture and nutrients are kept intact.Steamed cabbage has a delicate flavour which suits a light drizzle of sesame oil, melted butter or olive oil to finish. White cabbage can be steamed in 6-8 minutes.
White cabbage is the main ingredient in a traditional coleslaw. Some shop-bought coleslaws have given white cabbage a bad press but a freshly made coleslaw with homemade mayonnaise, julienned carrots, celeriac, white cabbage and fresh herbs makes a quick and brilliant accompaniment to many summer picnics and barbecues.
Sauerkraut is another love/hate white cabbage dish but the fact it’s made of fermented cabbage shouldn’t put you off - its sweet, tangy flavour and delightful crunch make it the perfect accompaniment for fatty meat dishes.
Have leftover cabbage from your Sunday roast? Why not make bubble and squeak by frying the cabbage with potato and any other leftover leafy green vegetables.
White cabbage is a delicious side dish for hearty winter dishes and roast meats. The robust flavour pairs brilliantly with smoked bacon, onions and thyme as well as whole spices such as cumin or nigella seeds. When eaten raw in coleslaws or tossed in salads, white cabbage is a great summertime ingredient – its mildly bitter flavour works well with barbecued meats such as duck or pork belly.
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