Most types of cabbage are best cooked quickly but red cabbage, a winter vegetable, comes into it’s own when slow cooked with apples, spices, dried fruit and a little wine or cider vinegar to bring out its natural sweetness and give a mild sweet and sour dish which is delicious served with roast pork, baked gammon, venison or duck. It is one of the traditional accompaniments to the Christmas turkey or Boxing Day ham and is a great recipe to make ahead and either keep in the fridge for a couple of days or to freeze for up to a month. Sometimes when cooking red cabbage the colour turns blue, if this happens simply add a little lemon juice or vinegar to restore the red colour.
Red cabbage is also delicious eaten raw, cut into thin shreds and mix with celery, apple and walnuts for a winter slaw with crunch which is perfect with burgers, ribs and jacket potatoes.
It’s also a traditional vegetable for pickling, thinly sliced and steeped in pickling vinegar, the colour and flavour really helps to pep up cold meats and cheese.
When buying red cabbage choose one that is firm with bright leaves. It should keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. To prepare red cabbage, remove the outer leaves and cut it in half from top to stalk, not round the middle. Cut in half again, remove the centre white stalk and then slice the cabbage or shred in a food processor.
Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF/Fan 150ºC/Gas Mark 3. Remove any soft outer leaves, cut the red cabbage in half then slice thinly, discarding the tough core. Peel, core and chop the cooking apples.
Layer the cabbage and apples with the remaining ingredients in casserole dish. Add 3tbsp water, cover the dish and cook in the oven for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.
Once the cabbage is nice and tender, and has soaked up all the flavours, serve with your favourite meats or store in the fridge for a couple of days and reheat when ready.
Red cabbage and Stilton slaw
Thinly shred ½ a raw red cabbage and mix with 2 sliced eating apples, 2 coarsely grated carrots and 2 chopped spring onions. Crumble over some Stilton and drizzle with French dressing.
Red cabbage, date and orange salad
Thinly shred ½ a raw red cabbage. Place in a salad bowl with 4 sliced oranges which have had the peel and pith removed, 200g stoned, chopped dates and 50g chopped walnuts. Drizzle with a mustard and honey salad dressing.
Red cabbage with bacon
Followiing the basic recipe for slow cooked cabbage above, add I chopped onion and 100g bacon lardoons, fried until golden. Replace the vinegar with red wine and use 2tsp Dijon instead of the spices.
Pickled red cabbage
Slice 1 raw red cabbage and layer in a non metallic bowl with 100g salt. Cover with a plate and leave overnight. Place in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove the salt. Drain well and pat dry. Pack into clean sterilised jars and cover with spiced pickling vinegar (available in bottles). Seal with vinegar-proof lids and store for 2 weeks before serving. Best eaten within 3 months before the cabbage looses it's crunch and colour.