Welcome to the Church of the Holy Cabbage. Lettuce Pray – Anonymous
Due to a crazy month of assignments, work and eating up a storm in KL (and taking a break to recover from these things), I have sorely neglected this little blog and am sorry not to have shared any veggie tales. I started writing this post a month ago when cabbages were in abundance at the markets – I hadn’t seen many recently but managed to pick up a beautiful purple one today, which convinced me to resurrect this post and not file it away until next year.
Green cabbage hasn’t been a vegetable I’ve cook with a great deal. I’ve been using purple cabbage in stir fries and sometimes use the green raw in salads, but childhood memories of overcooked green cabbage as a side dish don’t linger happily. When my friend Lesh suggested I just cook it with a few spices, I thought why not – perhaps it will surprise me.
And yes, yes it did. Not only because it tasted so good but because this humble, often overlooked vegetable has a fascinating history. The fabulous Whole Foods Companion by Stephanie Onstad has a great blurb on cabbage, which I will summarise here.
The English name cabbage comes from the Latin caput, meaning ‘head’. It is supposedly one of the oldest vegetables around, with evidence that it was cultivated over 4,000 years ago. Around 600BC it is said to have been bought from Asia to Europe by nomadic Celts and flourished due to its affinity with cooler climates and ability to be stored for long periods of time. It was bought to the Americas in 1536 and after centuries of cultivation, this amazing vegetable has welcomed kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts into its family.
Revered by the ancient Greeks and Romans – they even swore oaths on it – the cabbage was seen as a panacea for all ills. In Egypt, the pharaohs considered the cabbage an aid to drinking and ate large amounts before drinking bouts so they could drink more without getting too drunk. The ancients were pretty smart as we know – cabbage (especially red) helps alkalinise the body, stimulates the immune system, soothes and heals ulcers, has
anti-carcinogenic properties, improves the liver’s cleansing action and is high in iodine, vitamin C, vitamin E and calcium (don’t throw away the outer leaves as they have a higher concentration of these nutrients).
There are a number of cabbages to choose from – the crinkly savoy is the tenderest and great for stuffing; the arresting purple (red) is lovely in stir-fries and for pickling, the cone-shaped early Jersey Wakefield works well in salads and our humble domestic cabbage is best in coleslaw, made into sauerkraut or cooked up like below.
tamarind, sesame and ginger cabbage
1 small cabbage or ½ a large, remove inner white stem and cut thinly
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely diced or crushed
6 – 10 dried shitake mushrooms
2cm knob of ginger, grated
3 tablespoons tamarind*
1 tsp sambel olek or 1 fresh chilli
2 tblsps sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp mustard seeds
½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
6 or so drops sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a bowl pour boiling water over the dried shitake mushrooms and soak for around 20 minutes, or until softened
- Remove their stems (they won’t soften), squeeze out excess water and slice (the water can be frozen and used in soups or as part of a stock)
- Heat the olive and sesame oils in a fry pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop, add the coriander and heat for a few seconds before adding the onion, ginger and garlic
- Cook until translucent then add the cabbage, chilli, tamarind, sesame seeds, walnuts, salt and pepper
- Cover and cook until cabbage is just cooked but still has a firm/crunchy texture
- Serve on brown rice with a dash of olive oil or as a side dish.
- Diced ‘ready to eat’ tempeh would work really well in this dish and provide the meal with protein
As summer is upon us, here is one of my step-mother’s salads I simply call ‘yummy salad’ (though I’m sure it’s got another name … )
10 trimmed (150g) radishes (optional)
1 large red capsicum, sliced thinly
1 small (450g) savoy/Chinese cabbage, sliced thinly
6 spring onions, chopped finely
1 cup (80g) bean sprouts
½ cup(70g) slivered almonds, toasted
2 x 60g packets fried noodles
⅔ cup peanut oil (or equivalent)
2 tblsp white vinegar
2 tblsp brown sugar
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp minced garlic
- Slice radishes into matchstick-size pieces
- Combine radish in large bowl with capsicum, cabbage, onion, sprouts, nuts and noodles
- For the dressing, combine all ingredients in screw-top jar; shake well
- Just before serving, pour sweet-sour dressing over salad; toss to combine.