The cabbage we eat today came from the wild or sea cabbage, which is a native of Europe. There is a cabbage type for every season of the year, each distinct in appearance, colour, size and shape. Sliced and cooked, it can be one of two things: deliciously crisp, with a mild pleasant flavour – or overcooked and bad tasting! Cabbage and other Brassicas contain hydrogen sulphide, which is activated during cooking just when the vegetable begins to soften. It eventually disappears, so either cook cabbage briefly, or cook it long and slow, preferably with other ingredients so the flavours mingle. Overcooking will also result in the loss of water soluble and heat-sensitive nutrients such as folic acid and Vitamin C. Cabbage is a good source of fibre and Vitamins A and C and folic acid.
Cabbage can be cooked in a variety of ways, for example, boiled in salted water, sautéed in butter, braised in stock or stir-fried in oil. It can also be eaten raw in salads or can be pickled.Blanched and refreshed, cabbage will remain crisp and colourful needing only to be re-heated if serving hot.
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Preparing and Using
When buying cabbage avoid any with wilted leaves, cabbage should be fresh looking and unblemished. Remove the outer leaves if necessary and take out the stalk after dividing it into quarters. Slice or shred according to your recipe. If you need large amounts, an electric slicer will make light work of the job.You can also buy washed and prepared cabbage that is a ready to cook.
Cabbage can be boiled, steamed, sautéed,braised, stir-fried and even pickled. It can be served as a vegetable – simply sliced, cooked and tossed in butter (add lardons of smoked bacon for extra flavour). After blanching and refreshing use cabbage leaves to wrap mixtures of vegetables (e.g. ratatouille), or meat, rice and so on, and braise in the oven.Red cabbage can be braised with apples,currants, onions, vinegar, wine, sugar or honey and spices.
Use leftover cabbage to make ‘bubble and squeak’ and add shredded cabbage to mashed potatoes to make ‘colcannon’.
Stir-fried, shredded cabbage can be used in oriental vegetable dishes. For coleslaw with a difference use a dressing made with pesto,natural yoghurt and mayonnaise.
Good flavours to use with cabbage include:ham, bacon, corned beef, fish, pasta, apples,cider, lemon, sausage meat, and soy sauce