The unsung hero!
There are many foods which have a bad reputation for various reasons. Either we were forced to eat them as children or when cooked incorrectly taste like sulphur, sometime the texture isn’t appealing or we have some cultural hang up on them. I am sure there are many reasons why the lowly cabbage has such a bad rep for many people. I can and will attempt to give you a few reasons why cabbage is actually one of the great vegetables and should not just be hidden in stir fries or disguised with lashing of mayonnaise but should be exulted and celebrated as a food of true deliciousness and delicacy.
On the health side cabbage is practically a super food – it is rich in vitamin C (more than oranges!), iodine (improves brain and nervous system function), sulphur (helps fight infections), high in roughage and is a great detoxifier. The benefits of cabbage include treatmenssssst stomach ulcers, headache, excess weight, skin disorders, eczema, jaundice, scurvy, constipation, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, eye disorders, heart diseases, ageing, and Alzheimer’s disease. Enough said.
When cooked correctly cabbage is sweet, tender and delicate in flavour. It is a great base or accompaniment for stronger flavours but it also delicious when eaten on its own with a knob of butter and some nutmeg. When you over cook cabbage the sulphur is released and it will smell and taste like fart and old socks which makes it easy to explain why so many people can’t stand the thought of eating cabbage. Now, if you are one of those people it’s time to grow up and write that off to bad cooking and give cabbage another chance.
Yesterday I was with my parents and my step Dad made a dish of steamed cabbage leaves topped with a slightly curried mushroom and crème fraiche sauce served with parsley potatoes… it was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Between the three of us we finished the entire platter in which a whole cabbage had been used. This is a dish as well as being easy and quick to make is a celebration worthy meal and could easily stand up to being served at a special occasion. It looks magnificent and tastes spectacular.
I have written the guidelines to my Dad’s recipe below. I didn’t do exact measurements as I normally do at home but used me eye, so you need to take it in that light.
Deconstructed stuffed cabbage(said with tongue placed in cheek)
2 tbsp of butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
250g – 500g button mushrooms, washed and halved
1 tsp of mild or medium curry powder
½ tsp of smoked paprika
1 tsp of salt or to taste
½ tsp of Ina Paarman’s Italian cheese sprinkle
¼ cup of finely grated parmesan
250g crème fraiche
A little extra butter (if desired)
Freshly grated nutmeg
For the cabbage
Peel off the tough outer leaves and thoroughly wash your cabbage. Cut out with a small sharp knife the cone shaped stem at the bottom of the cabbage and then start loosening the leaves with your hands separating the leaves. A steamer is ideal to cook the leaves or a large pot with the a steamer insert or simply with about 2 cms of water in the bottom.
Loosely fold up the individual leaves and place them into your steamer or pot and set aside until ready to use. They should take about 20 minutes in a steamer and 10 minutes in a pot (once the water has started to boil).
Please keep an eye on the leaves as they will continue to cook after they are removed from the pot. You want to stop cooking once the leaves are just barely cooked through and have just started to release their natural sugars. Taste and feel the leaves they should be sweet and almost (but not) crispy.
For the sauce
Melt the butter in a medium sized pan on medium heat. Fry your onions and mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the spices, salt and parmesan and fry again for a few minutes. Add the crème fraiche and combine. Taste and adjust flavours if necessary. Set aside until ready for use.
Once the cabbage has steamed place the leaves in pockets on a large platter. Add a few extra knobs of butter (if desired) and liberally grate a dusting of nutmeg over the hot cabbage. Top the cabbage with the hot mushroom sauce and serve immediately.
This dish is best accompanied by boiled potatoes tossed with a little butter or oil and a few handful of very finely chopped parsley.