Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Seeing Red with Cabbage; IN SEASON MALCOLM BROWN, HEAD CHEF AT WALLINGTON

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Seeing Red with Cabbage; IN SEASON MALCOLM BROWN, HEAD CHEF AT WALLINGTON

Article excerpt

Byline: MALCOLM BROWN

THE festive blow-out is now just a memory (and an extra notch on the belt). No doubt you have made plenty of New Year's resolutions - perhaps to be more self-sufficient or greener, eat more healthily or that old chestnut, to lose weight and get fit.

A few years ago the Cabbage Soup diet was all the rage, with its claim to shed 10lbs in seven days. All you had to do was eat unlimited amounts of cabbage soup. Tough on you - and your family and friends!

The diet has done nothing to help buff up cabbage's tarnished image. The most unglamorous of vegetables, it has always been the pantomime villain of childhood meals.

One of my nightmare childhood memories is being forced to eat plates of foul smelling, soggy and anaemiclooking cabbage at school meal times.

That's a shame, because lightly blanched in salted water and finished off with pepper and butter, cabbage is a superb vegetable that works well with both meat and fish.

Luckily there are enough varieties available to make it more exciting. If plain old green cabbage isn't to your liking, what about my favourite, red? I can hear the cries of dissent from my eyrie in Wallington's Clocktower Caf. It is, I am sad to say, the victim of a swathe of cultural prejudice.

Like its purple cousin beetroot, red cabbage has suffered from something of an image crisis. The over-pickled vinegary stuff in jars we are all too familiar with, has given this wonderful vegetable a bad name.

Served as a condiment with cold meats, the red stained malt vinegar slowly spreading across the plate colouring everything it touches, this notorious winter staple is more loathed than loved.

Imagine being less popular than regular green cabbage or sprouts? I have to confess I used to be a member of the anti-brigade. It's back to the days when it was either stewed to within an inch of its life or drowned in vinegar.

Then my eyes were opened to the delights of this hearty, tightly packed ball-shaped member of the brassica family. Two things I have learned is that pickling doesn't do red cabbage justice - and the possibilities for its culinary uses are endless. It can be eaten raw and thinly sliced in salads, stir-fried, steamed, braised and turned into soups.

In the depths of winter, the vibrant red of its leaves adds a dramatic burst of colour alongside more sombre root vegetables. And good news for those looking to lose a few pounds is that it's low in calories and packed full of nutrients.

Not that I am advocating everyone should go on a red cabbage diet!

One thing you should bear in mind when cooking red cabbage is that it reacts dramatically to even slightly hard water. The alkaline has the effect of turning it from vibrant red to an unappealing blue.

This is why recipes usually include an acidic ingredient like citrus, vinegar or wine to help preserve red cabbage's rich purple-red hue. …

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