Cabbage challenge

There are many healthy and easy recipes for the vegetable, from soups and stews to cabbage rolls

When I read Life's Cheat Sheet feature on the different types of cabbage two weeks ago, I was surprised by how many varieties there are available in the market.

I also wondered why the vegetable remains so low on my radar when I am considering what to cook.

Part of the problem, I think, is that when you buy a whole cabbage, you find that it is packed so tightly that you end up with so much of it after cutting it open.

But at least some shops offer them cut in half, which is still usually quite a bit.


  • (Above) Red cabbage and large onions


    Half a red cabbage - about 500g

    2 onions

    3 tbsp olive oil

    1 tbsp butter (about 25g)

    2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

    3 tbsp brown sugar

    Salt and pepper

    Marinate for salmon:

    4 pieces of salmon

    60ml light soy sauce

    25g grated fresh ginger

    1 tbsp palm sugar

    1 tbsp olive oil


    1. Mix the soy, ginger and palm sugar in a bowl. Add the salmon pieces and coat them with the marinade. Place the salmon in the fridge until ready to cook

    2. Finely slice the cabbage and onions

    3. Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. Add the cabbage and onions, and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and stir occasionally for around 25 minutes or until the cabbage and onions become limp and are beginning to brown slightly

    4. Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly until cabbage and onions are tender and become caramelised and slightly sticky. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly

    5. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, remove the salmon fillets from the marinade and cook for about five minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcook. Serve the salmon pieces on top of the caramelised cabbage and serve with steamed green beans

    Serves four

The next challenge is to develop an appetite for cabbage and I fear it has a reputation of being a rather dull vegetable.

When it is overcooked, it turns many people off because it can develop a rather strong smell and become limp and pasty.

Pickled cabbages are a staple in some countries, including Korea (kimchi) and Germany (sauerkraut).

Cabbage is rich in vitamins K, C and B6, and it is a source of fibre.

There are many studies that suggest that the vegetable has antioxidant qualities, as well as cancer prevention and cholesterol reduction possibilities.

There are many healthy, easy cabbage recipes using green and purple cabbage, from hearty soups and stews to classic cabbage rolls. And cabbage can be crunchy and nice when used raw in a salad.

I like to use red cabbage braised or sauteed with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, which brings out its deep purple colour and gives it a nice caramelised texture with just a hint of a tangy taste.

The result is a tasty base for sauteed chicken fillets or fish, or it can simply be served as a side dish with many other dishes.

For me, cabbage works well with soy marinated salmon and the dish is great to eat either hot or cold.

The best red cabbage is one that feels heavy, looks bright and has crisp leaves. Avoid those with puffy leaves or which have their outer layers removed.

As an alternative to cabbage, make the sauteed base with just onions, using the same weight of onions. Either brown or red is fine.

The taste will be slightly milder but just as delicious. Also, add a little more balsamic vinegar if you like it less sweet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 08, 2015, with the headline 'Cabbage challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe