December 19, 2006
Cabbage ears, cabbage head. You’re a complete cabbage. The cabbage is a much-maligned veg in the English vernacular. An insult, it suggests either stupidity or ugliness, or both.
When over-boiled, cabbage becomes translucent, water-logged, flatulatory. A short-hand for all that’s wrong with British institutional life – the damp, gloomy stench of school canteens, hospital wards and village halls.
It’s all a bit unfair. The Savoy cabbage, in particular, is a handsome beast – tightly wrapped up, crinkly and squeaky. It looks like a big, green brain. If you bring it up close to your eye and turn it over in your hands you can recreate the opening credits from Tomorrow’s World, circa 1980.
Thrown against a wall, or walloped with a stick, it produces one of the vegetable world’s most satisfying explosions.
Or you can stuff it. We did, with sausage.
Cabbage Stuffed with Sausage
1. Take a whole savoy, snap off the loose outer leaves and trim the stalk.
2. Dice a carrot, finely slice an onion, assemble a bouquet-garni. Have a bowl of sausage meat to hand. A well-seasoned, herby sausage such as Cumberland would be ideal. If the sausage is too mild in flavour, add extra seasoning and herbs, chopped sage fits the bill.
3. Bring a large pan of water to boiling point; add the cabbage and leave for 5-10 minutes to soften.
4. Remove the cabbage and drain. Carefully peel back the leaves one at a time, adding a spoonful of the sausage meat to each leaf as you go.
5. Use your hands to reshape the whole caboodle back to its original shape. Tie it up with kitchen string (or crochet string, if that’s all you’ve got). An extra pair of hands is useful for this awkward procedure.
6. Put the carrots, onion, bouquet-garni and seasoning into a deep oven dish. Place the cabbage on top and lay 2 or 3 bacon slices over, as in the photo below. Pour over 3/4 pint of either stock or half white wine, half water.
7. Seal the edges with foil. Put on the lid and place in a low oven (100-120C) to braise gently for around 3 hours.
8. At the end of this time, drain the juice from the dish. You can reduce this, or thicken it with butter and flour, or simply adjust the seasoning and serve it separately in a wee jug.
9. Bring the cabbage to the table in the dish and serve it in slices, along with the cooking juice. It worked well for us with a big dollop of dry, fluffy mash.
And so the frumpy old cabbage is transformed, Cinderella-like, into the belle-of-the-ball. A vegetable fairy tale, just in time for Crimbo.