When I was at art college I spent a month studying a red cabbage. It was one that I had grown myself, with a densely packed heart and a frilly collar of outer leaves that ranged from the colour of burgundy wine, to a deep chalky blue green. It had a bloom over the leaves that gave them the look of a frosty morning and a network of veins ran like a spider's web out from the core. First I drew it in pencil, ink and charcoal and then pulled it apart and recreated the leaves in organdie and thread, redrawing them with fascination as they began to dry and crisp and curl. Finally I made my own cabbage in wire and silk, stained with inks, couched and threaded with shades of purple, red and green.
Cabbage rarely gets this sort of adoration. It's one of the few foods that Finley greets without joy. It's often seen as the maiden aunt of vegetables - solid, good for you, but a bit frumpy and not much fun on a night out. I love a bowl of coleslaw or some buttered savoy with lots of black pepper - but you must agree that school dinners is what springs to many people's minds if you mention cabbage?
I often suggest sauerkraut as a wonderful source of vitamin C in the winter, an excellent stimulant for gastric juices, something to pep up an ordinary winter salad, and daily probiotic. However, most people greet the suggestion without the enthusiasm I think it deserves! Fermented vegetables are on few meal tables these days, but they are a great alternative to ketchups, pickles and sauces that are often laden with sugar or preservatives. Fermented vegetables have that sweet and sour kick because the vegetables provide the sweet and the fermentation provides the sour. Fermentation also renders fibrous or starchy vegetables easier to digest, making the less desirable aspects of cabbage consumption (ahem) rather less apparent.
The sexy (Korean) cousin of sauerkraut is kimchi. Where sauerkraut is simple, sour and salty - kimchi has the magic of garlic, ginger and chili to provide a complex, mouth filling taste bomb. Made with red cabbage and carrot, it becomes a jewel like addition to any plate. A spoonful over your stir-fry will add freshness and intensify the asian flavours, added to soup it provides a fresh garlicky crunch. Why only this morning I was searching for something sweet and sour to accompany my eggs and my eyes lighted on the kimchi - delicious!
It is so easy to make that a child could do it - maybe it could be a nice project for you to do together? I like to add a good probiotic capsule to mine (I use Bio-Kult) as it does seem to help keep it fresh and consistent, but whey made from dripping yogurt in some muslin will do just fine.
Red Cabbage Kimchi
1 Red Cabbage 2 Large Carrots 2 tsp finely grated ginger 1 clove of garlic finely chopped 1/4 - 1/2 a fresh red or green chilli 1 tablespoon finely ground Sea Salt 2 probiotic capsules + 1 cup of spring/filtered/mineral water or 1 cup of whey drained from yogurt hung in muslin (to make yogurt cheese)
Remove core and shred cabbage finely. Peel and grate carrots. Remove seeds and chop chilli into small pieces.
Put everything into a ceramic or stainless steel bowl and pound with a meat mallet or pestle, or wooden spoon until the juices start to flow.
Pile into a clean 1 1/2 litre kilner jar or two big glass jars and push down with clean fingers until the juices rise to the top of the cabbage. close tightly with a lid.
Set aside at room temperature for 3-4 days until the pickle tastes sour and may start to have a little tingle on the tongue. Refrigerate and eat within a couple of months.