Cabbages are massively underrated. The problem, I imagine, is that many of us associate the word ‘cabbage’ with soggy, dull, overcooked, near-sulphurous shredded leaves. In fact, there’s a huge variety of cabbages and, when cooked to just tender, they’re a versatile, tasty, cheap and filling side that shouldn’t be left in the shadow of the more fashionable kales and broccolis.
I almost always cook Savoy, green, white and January King cabbages and spring greens as described below, though only occasionally adding the juniper berries. By part boiling, part steaming the cabbage in a shallow depth of water, the risk of overcooking the leaves and leaching out all their goodness is reduced. The butter and milk glaze doesn’t just add gloss; it also seems to accentuate and round off the best bits of the cabbage’s flavour profile. Try it with other leaves too. This is best when cooked at the last minute as cabbage loses vibrancy if you cook it in advance and try to keep it warm. It’s autumn and winter material – think casseroles, pies and mouthwatering roast meats. The juniper lends itself to beef, venison and game birds.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 800 g cabbage, such as Savoy, green, January King or spring greens
- 15 juniper berries
- 50 g butter
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- I like cabbage in large, almost hand-sized pieces; it’s more attractive and more enjoyable to eat like this than if it were shredded. To do this, cut the cabbage in half from root to tip, then separate the leaves from each other, leaf by leaf, starting from the outside. Cut out and discard the rib from the middle of each leaf, and cut the leaves in half along the rib line at the same time.
- Crush the juniper berries with a pestle and mortar until they’re nearly a dust. Fill a large pan with 6–7 cm water, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a rapid boil. Blanch the cabbage for 1–2 minutes, until just tender. Drain and return the pan to a medium heat.
- Put the butter and milk in the pan with the ground juniper, 7 or 8 grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. When the butter has melted, add the cabbage and stir for 30 seconds, until the leaves are well glossed. Transfer to a serving bowl, pouring any residual milk, butter and juniper dressing over the leaves.