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The Whole Vegetable: Cabbage

by Sophie Gordon

published on 19 January 2022

I’m commonly known among friends for being an obsessive vegetable hoarder. A quarter of a pepper sitting in the fridge, carrots in a jar of water, leaves trimmed and bagged: you’ll find me roasting up some cauliflower leaves with chilli flakes, salt and lemon juice, or using those ‘inedible’ onion skins or vegetable peelings for a trusty homemade stock. I’m passionate about (and slightly obsessed with) the minimization of waste, taking the not-so-ordinary or usually discarded parts of a fruit or vegetable and using them to their full potential – and even to our advantage.

It’s this approach, combined with centring each meal around fruit and vegetables that are in season, that underpins my brand-new cookbook The Whole Vegetable. Every recipe in the book has been created with the idea of making use of a whole vegetable. I encourage you not to throw away what you might normally, saving those scraps to be re-worked into another dish or put into your stock box for later. And by eating seasonally, you will create dishes that are vibrant and full of flavour because the produce is at its best. Foods are fresher and tastier when picked just at the right moment to make that perfect summer salad or that warming winter crumble.

From the book

Sophie Gordon

You’ll find the same guiding principles behind this, my brand-new column for The Happy Foodie, in which I will be sharing a set of recipes from my book to help you get the most out of an ingredient in its prime in each season. From the depths of winter to the height of summer, I’ll encourage you to celebrate a different fruit or vegetable in its entirety, with ideas for what to do with any leftovers to help you minimise any food waste too.

The very depths of winter tend to see us spending more time indoors, avoiding the cold and wet weather and gravitating towards the kitchen. It’s also thanks to this wet weather that there is a lot of great produce around at this time of year, with earthy root vegetables and brassicas at their very best. Over the last few years, I’ve taken a particular liking to the cabbage, a very underrated vegetable that’s long overdue for a bit of love in my opinion. In The Whole Vegetable, I give the humble cabbage the attention it deserves with a series of recipes and tips to celebrate it in all its glory. So when I thought about which vegetable should be the focus of this column on the coldest months of the year, I knew exactly what to choose. Below you’ll find three of my favourite cabbage-based recipes from the book, one inspired by my travels, another by my Polish heritage and the third by a love of ramen. They vary in length, but all three are great ways to use a few of the different varieties of cabbage and will hopefully inspire you to add one to your weekly shopping basket during the winter months. When it comes to varieties, I particularly love Hispi and King, and you might be lucky enough to come across the purple variety of the latter in January; the taste isn’t much different but the colour is something very special.

I’m sure I’m not the only one when I say I often have some cabbage left, sitting in the fridge a little sad and wanting to be used. If making any of the recipes in this column leaves you with leftovers, the good news is that they can be used up in so many ways. Limp vegetables might seem unappealing and more often than not people chuck them away, but even something as simple as sautéing your cabbage leaves in your favourite oil with some crushed garlic, salt and a little bit of chilli can completely revive them and makes an easy and flavoursome side to accompany a bigger spread. Another of my favourite ways with leftover cabbage is to simply finely chop or shred the leaves and put them into a big stew, a pasta sauce or even a hearty bean dish. You can use all varieties and it will go with literally anything, adding a nice pop of colour and an earthy flavour. Finally, why not try pulling apart the leaves and lightly steaming them whole, then stuffing them with whatever you like to create a veg-based wrap or taco.

I hope you enjoy my first instalment of recipes. See you in the spring…

Cabbage Ramen with Homemade Ramen Noodles

by Sophie Gordon

I’ve always been obsessed with the Japanese dish ramen. From the moment I had my first bowl of deliciousness, I was hooked! I couldn’t help but want to recreate the creamy slow-cooked broth and the noodles from scratch, although the noodle part of this recipe is definitely optional as they do require a little extra time and love. Once you get the hang of making them, they are actually super simple and very therapeutic. The ramen broth is easy and the longer you leave it, the deeper the flavour becomes, but it can also be made and eaten straight away. Packed with chilli, ginger and lots of sesame, this is a great winter warmer, plus, of course, with the addition of shredded cabbage, brings you a hefty dose of nutritious greens.

Chickpea Dosa, Za’atar Spiced Pear and Cabbage, Tahini Sauce

by Sophie Gordon

This recipe brings together ingredients and flavours inspired by my trips to Sri Lanka, India and the Middle East. It’s packed with different herbs and spices and served with a simple tahini sauce to accompany the dosa. It’s something different for a weekend brunch or perhaps an early dinner when it’s already dark outside and you’re craving a little sunshine. You can use any variety of cabbage.

Polish-style Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

by Sophie Gordon

My dad often talks about the variety of dishes he had when he was younger. I admit that a lot of Polish food can be of the beige variety, but not this recipe. We used to dine in a Polish restaurant in West London often and I’d see this dish flying about the room. Typically, the cabbage leaves are stuffed with minced pork or beef, but in this variation, I use pearl barley or spelt, a chewy grain, to help to replicate that ‘meaty’ texture. I’ve worked on this recipe for a while, wanting to get it to pure perfection, with a subtle hint of allspice and juicy sultanas for extra flavour. It’s safe to say this is one of my all-time favourites.

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