Friday, 6 November 2009

Dear Old Red Cabbage

Braised red cabbage is a pretty standard recipe and I don’t do much that’s really different. There are one or two small tweaks that mean it’s just the way I like it, though. The idea of using the two different apples is that the Bramley will add the tartness but will break down, while the eating apple adds a sweeter, more obviously appley taste and may retain some texture. The blackberry vinegar will heighten the colour and give extra depth to the flavour but is generally sweeter than most vinegars, which is partly why I add the lemon at the end.
This dish has the major advantage that it can be made well in advance (even the day before), chilled and reheated. It also freezes pretty well.

If you do happen to have any cold red cabbage left over then try thinning it with a little more lemon juice, vinegar or just some water and then purée until at least reasonably smooth. It makes a very good relish for cold meats.

This recipe will serve 4.

Braised Red Cabbage with Lemon

1 medium red cabbage
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 large Bramley apple
1 decent-sized eating apple, preferably a firm Cox
90 ml of water or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons light, soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons blackberry vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 160°C (for a fan oven, a little hotter otherwise).

Soften the onion gently in a large, lidded, flameproof casserole with a small amount of olive oil. If the onion looks in danger of taking on some colour, add a little water. Discard any outer leaves that don’t look too good then cut the cabbage in half, cut out the really hard stalky bits and finally slice it finely. Peel and core the apples, then cut them into fairly chunky slices.

Add the apple slices to the onions and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Stir in the cabbage, then add the lemon zest, sugar, vinegars, thyme leaves and water or stock. Add a little salt (not too much at this stage) and a few turns of pepper.

Give it all a good stir, place the lid on the casserole and put it into the oven. The cabbage should take between 1½ and 2 hours to cook but it will need stirring every twenty minutes or so. If the cabbage seems to be drying out too much at any stage, add another couple of tablespoons of water.

Once the cabbage is tender, take it out of the oven and stir in the lemon juice to taste – you may not need it all. Add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.