savoyAnother week. Another glut of sub-standard cabbages. Last week’s mini red cabbages are followed this week by perfectly formed but very petite savoy cabbages. Like their red brothers before them they too are refugees from the brassica bed that is now mulched and ready for planting. So once again the g&g household finds itself with a lot of cabbage to eat.

Toffs Stuffed Cabbage:

This side dish looks like something from a Victorian aristocrat’s luncheon, but it’s mercifully simple to make and quite fun (in a Blue Peter sort of way).

  • Several small savoy cabbages, or 1 supermarket grade cabbage
  • 50g pancetta

Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, wash, pat dry and set aside. You want to pick the best looking and largest leaves as these will form your casing.

Fry the pancetta in a large frying pan with a little oil until lightly browned.

Whilst that’s cooking, finely shred the remaining cabbage and wash thoroughly (at this time of year savoys are a slug metropolis). Add these shreddings sans slugs to the pancetta, turn the heat down and allow the cabbage to wilt for 4-5 minutes. Season to taste.

Now take 4 ramekins and line with cling film. Arrange the outer cabbage leaves over the cling film so they are slightly overlapping and form a leafy casing for your filling. Make sure you leave lots of overhanging cabbage and cling film. Also be sure to have the veins of the savoy facing inwards otherwise the finished dish tends to resemble a brain (though you could make this vein side out, rename it Green Alien Brains and it might encourage stubborn little boys to eat their greens).

Now stuff your lined ramekins with the cabbage and pancetta mixture. Once they’re full and well packed in, pull up the edges of the cling film and twist together tightly at the top to make a cabbage ball (it’s the same technique as the suet pudding last week and is also inspired by Ashburton Cookery School).

Remove the cling film balls from the ramekins and steam for 5-8 minutes then serve.

Cabbage Risottoy Thing for Comforting Peasants:

This is a great big hug of a supper for chilly winter (or in our case, spring) nights after a day in the fields. Such evenings are no time to be stirring a risotto so this recipe uses pearled spelt or barley which don’t need constant attention, keeping your evening free for stoking the fire.

  • 4 small handfuls of pearled barley or pearled spelt (spelt is nuttier and I think it’s a better match with savoy)
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 300ml water
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few peppercorns
  • 6 rashes of unsmoked back bacon
  • 2-3 refugee savoy cabbages (or 1 well-heeled supermarket one), shredded
  • Dollop of double cream

Put the spelt, stock, water, onion, bay leaf and peppercorns in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the spelt is al dente (approx 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, cut the bacon into thin slivers and fry in a large frying pan with a little oil. Add the shredded cabbage(s) and toss in the bacony oil. Take a ladle of stock from the spelt and add it to the cabbages. Clamp a lid on the frying pan and leave for 5-10 minutes until the cabbage is just softened.

Once the spelt is cooked, drain it, remove the onion, bay etc and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Add the spelt to the cabbage, dollop in some cream and cook for a further 3-5 minutes. If it looks too dry add a little of the stock liquid. Season, perhaps grate in a little parmesan and serve.

Feeds 2 workers after a hard day muck-spreading.

Mash-up:

To make the stuffed cabbage a full meal, you can use the spelt risotto as stuffing and make it in something larger than a ramekin – a very egalitarian toff meets peasant dish.