I’ve been appreciating cabbages recently – raw, cooked and sauerkraut. Richard Cato has been selling superb savoy cabbages at Hamilton Farmers’ market. And also at the market, there’s Marea Smith’s delicious GoodBugs sauerkraut.

Savoys are among the prettier members of the cabbage family. They’re green and frilly and a little bit leafy. Their name comes from the Savoy region of France.

The cabbage, or brassica, family also includes broccoli, bok choy, mizuna, radishes cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, turnips and more. I’ll write more about the many interesting and delicious cabbage cousins in a future post.

Richard Cato suggests there’s a cabbage pecking order: red cabbage; savoy cabbage; standard cabbage.

I agree that standard green cabbages are pretty neutral and boring. They need a few other ingredients, or a sauce, to give them flair. (See the recipes later on in this post for some ideas.)

Or, you can transform a boring green cabbage into sauerkraut. Here’s my son Tom’s sauerkraut recipe, from a post I wrote a while back.

It’s not hard to make sauerkraut, but it’s much easier to buy it. Each jar of GoodBugs sauerkraut contains at least one head of cabbage! (Marea Smith keeps the stats.)

What to do with a savoy cabbage

Richard Cato’s recipe is simple and pretty good. Don’t leave out the butter and pepper, they’re essential to the flavour.

Use all leaves, but trim out the white veins

Slice finely

Leave on bench 10 minutes

Steam 5 minutes

Serve with butter and pepper

Scrunched savoy salad

Slice leaves finely.

Sprinkle with a small amount of salt – approx. ¼ teaspoon

With clean hands, squeeze the cabbage and roll in your fingers for a few minutes. The cabbage will get a bit softer but it won’t go mushy.

Drain off any liquid.

Dress with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a pinch of sugar and a grind of black pepper.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds over the top before serving.

Colcannon, aka Bubble and Squeak

This is a traditional English/ Celtic breakfast, with fried egg, bacon, black pudding etc. You can make it with leftover potato and cabbage.

You could make colcannon with ordinary green cabbage, or with steamed kale or collards.

My recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

450g cooked potato

1 cup lightly steamed cabbage

1 large onion, thinly sliced

bacon fat, beef dripping or oil to fry

Mash the potatoes and mix with the cabbage

Season well with salt and pepper

Fry the onion in the fat until it is soft and beginning to brown.

Add the potato and cabbage to the pan.

Cook slowly until it starts getting crispy on the bottom.

Turn the potato mixture over and keep cooking until the bottom is crispy again.

Red cabbage

Red (actually it’s purple) cabbage makes sauerkraut that’s both beautiful and delicious. It’s also a naturally fermented food that’s great for gut health.

We’ve been eating GoodBugs purple sauerkraut as an easy vegetable with a range of dinners over the last couple of weeks. It goes well with beef stew and mashed potatoes, and less predictably, but just as well, with fish and chips.

Sweet and sour red cabbage

This takes a while to put together, so I tend to make it on festive occasions. It goes well with a plain meat or vegetarian main dish, e.g. macaroni cheese, or roast lamb, or simple pan-fried fish.

My recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. This book was my mother Sue’s American food touchstone.

Pull off the messy outer leaves of a head of red cabbage – approximately 1kg.

Cut the head into sections. Remove the hard core and finely slice the cabbage.

Chop up 2 to 4 rashers of fatty bacon (optional). If you’re not using bacon, you’ll need one or two tablespoons of butter. Oil doesn’t give such a good flavour.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, cook bacon for a few minutes over low heat, until some of the fat is rendered out.

Saute in the fat until golden 3 to 4 tablespoons of finely chopped onion – about half a large onion.

Add to the pan:

The sliced cabbage

1 or 2 finely chopped apples

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional but authentic for flavour)

¼ cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey, or 2 teaspoons sugar if you don’t have honey

Cover the pan and simmer very slowly for at least half an hour. An hour is even better.

Add water if it starts drying out.

Before serving add 1 tablespoon cream. This is optional but makes it even more delicious and festive.

Green cabbage recipes

There’s a recipe for an excellent Mexican pickled salad in my post last week,  Parsley and her cousins.

Classy coleslaw

Finely shred half a cabbage.

Place in a bowl and add

2 tablespoons finely chopped flatleaf parsley

2 tablespoons roughly chopped land cress, or rocket

1 spring onion, finely sliced


Mix together

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons plain unsweetened yoghurt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

a grinding of black pepper

Optional: 1 crushed garlic clove

Taste and add more salt if needed.

Gently combine the greens with the dressing.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of toasted sunflower seeds over the coleslaw before serving.

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