It’s muck-spreading time at the allotment, which means that anything still in the ground has to come out. It might seem drastic, but I like to start the year with a fresh, empty patch of newly raked soil – ah the potential. First out are the remains of the red cabbages.

Brassicas are not my forte. I sowed these Red Jewel F1s almost a year ago. I trod and warmed the ground before planting out. I gave them their very own cabbage collars. I netted them to ward off the Evil Cabbage White. I may even spoken to them in tender tones. And I waited. They started pretty well, but the distraction of the late Summer harvest meant it was Autumn before I noticed that my red cabbages were not great big red jewels as promised, but little red cricket balls at best. I have left them over the winter to see if they deign to grow further, but they haven’t. And now they must come out. All of them. But they will not be cast into the compost bin. For where there is a glut, no matter how long in the tooth, there are ways to cook it.

Red Cabbage Salad:

The idea for this came from The Riverford Farm Cookbook‘s Warm Red Cabbage Salad, but I’ve tinkered with the ingredients and made it to suit my lack of patience – ie: I haven’t cook the cabbage.

For the salad:

  • a handful of walnuts
  • 1 crisp apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 (small) red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • a decent block of blue cheese, crumbled (I used Daylesford‘s gorgonzola)

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Toss the walnuts in a little sunflower oil and roast for 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mix all the salad ingredients together. Mix all the dressing ingredients together. Toss. Serve. (I told you I was impatient.)

Serves 2.

Red Cabbage Suet Pudding:

I learnt how to make suet puds at Ashburton Cookery School where we made them with a red onion and black pudding filling. However, it seems to work just as well with red cabbage, which has a similar sweetness that sits well with the savouriness of the pastry.

For the pastry:

  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 75g suet
  • 100ml milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme

For the filling:

  • 2 (small) red cabbages, shredded
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar

Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the suet, salt and thyme and mix well. Add the milk a dribble at a time mixing with your hands until it comes together to form a dough. Knead a little, wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.

Meanwhile make the filling. Pop the cabbage and water in a non-stick pan that has a lid and simmer very gently for 10 minutes with the lid on. You’re virtually steaming the cabbage in the water it sits in.

Next add the vinegar and sugar and cook, with the lid off on a slightly higher heat, for another 10 minutes. You want to make sure the filling is quite dry once it’s finished cooking. Finally, season the mixture and transfer to a bowl to cool.

Once you’re cabbage and pastry are ready, oil the inside of 2 ramekins or pudding bowls (or anything heat-proof with a diameter and depth of roughly 6-7cm) and line with cling film. Make sure you have lots of cling film spare over the edges.

Roll your pastry out to around 3mm thick. Cut into a circle big enough to line your ramekin. You can be quite brutish with this pastry, so don’t worry about creases or wobbles, just push it in to the corners and right up the sides of your dish.

Pack your pud with the cabbage filling. Really stuff it in tightly. Then cut a circle of pastry as a lid and pop it on top. I glue the pastry lid to the pastry bowl with a little milk and press them together so the pudding doesn’t burst.

Now the cheffy bit. Bring the overhanging cling film over the lid and twist together to form an airtight ball in which your pud is safely sealed.

Pop the ramekins in a steamer for 45 minutes then remove and cool. Once cooled, turn the puds out on to a baking tray. They will look pretty anemic and unappealing so brush them with egg and brown them in the oven (roughly 210 degrees) for 10 minutes or until golden.

You can jazz up the filling with some pancetta if you like, but I think there’s something appealingly puritanical about a supper of cabbage suet pudding. Should you disagree, then this pud, or indeed just the filling, can be used as a side dish to something more glamourous.

Serves 2.