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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

It turns out that cooked cabbage is delicious

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summary: recipe for Indian-style cabbage with ginger and coconut; embracing vegetarian food; (click on image to see larger view)

cabbage Like so many others, we are trying to reduce our meat intake. And we often choose to make vegetarian dinners.

But our vegetarian dishes are not watery and bland. Or trying to mimic meat. Or tasteless and grey. They’re vibrant with many different flavours and textures.

The other night, as we were indulging ourselves with the most spectacular feast of rice, dahl, fried eggplant, aloo posta with green beans, and stir-fried cabbage, we couldn’t help but admit that if we decided to become exclusively vegetarian, we would probably be making just about everything Indian-style.

They really do know how to make vegetables taste great in India! And there is so much difference in texture as well!

The biggest revelation for me was the cabbage.

It might not look like much. But don’t let looks fool you. The flavour is fantastic.

We have made lots of dishes using raw cabbage but we rarely cook with it. Cabbage gets such a bad rap. Phrases like “it stinks”, “the house stinks for days afterwards” and “like dish water” jump to mind.

But anyone who says that hasn’t tried cabbage prepared the way we had it the other night – sliced thinly and stir-fried with mustard and cumin seeds, blackened chillis, onions, ginger and shredded coconut – will change their minds.

Not long ago, I went through a phase of insisting that we buy red cabbage. I like the colour….

But the last red cabbage we had was tough and bitter. It took ages for us to get half-way through it. Its red lumpiness sat taking up room in the vegetable drawer for weeks. Until finally, I gave T permission to throw it into the compost bin. And promise that we never, ever, ever have to buy red cabbage again.

And no cabbage entered our house for ages. Until suddenly we wanted to make sauerkraut for Reuben sandwiches. So we bought a cabbage. Regular old light green cabbage may not be as prettily coloured as red cabbage but it is a little more tender and sweeter.

Not a whole lot of cabbage is required to make sauerkraut. And suddenly, there again was a big pale green lump languishing in the vegetable drawer. Until the other night when we were going to have Indian food.

I mentioned that there was cabbage in the fridge and asked innocently if Indians ever did anything with cabbage. T got that dreamy look on his face and said that he used to get fabulous cabbage dishes whenever he visited the south of India. We looked into our various books to see what they did. We were really surprised at how few cabbage dishes we found!

So T winged it. And, as usual, aced it. Wow! This is the best! We need to buy more cabbage!

Indian Cabbage with Ginger and Coconut
sorry, no actual measurements; use your best judgement

  • oil
  • whole dried chili(s)
  • cumin seeds
  • brown mustard seeds
  • onion, chopped
  • ginger, julienned
  • good shot of cabbage, sliced very thinly
  • salt
  • shredded unsweetened coconut
  • turmeric (just a little – mostly for colour)
  1. Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add whole dried chili and cook for about a minute until it begins to colour. Add cumin and mustard seeds.
  2. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onion and stir-fry until it just begins to colour.
  3. Add ginger, cabbage and salt and stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes. The salt should help release the water from the cabbage.
  4. Stir in coconut and turmeric and continue cooking until the cabbage is the consistency you like. (We like it to be still a little al dente.)

Serve hot with plenty of other dishes.




  • T

    Not only a wonderful complex dish. It was soooo quick and easy to make. Loved it. And to reiterate – I don’t really even like cabbage all that much. But this was sublime.

    It was so fabulous that I have a perverse desire to get a red cabbage and see if will be just as good. But prettier. -E

  • barbara

    I love cabbage, and that looks wonderful. Cabbage is the sweetest vegetable as long as it’s not cooked to the point that the stinkiness gets released.

    Thank you, Barbara. It was wonderful. Who knew!? I can’t get over how great it is this way. No stinky overstewed nightmare for us! -Elizabeth


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