Monday, 11 February 2013

Cabbage - Three Ways (part 1 of 2)

I asked some of you readers what you wanted to see more of on the site, and the overwhelming answer was recipes using seasonal ingredients.  Well Garum Lovers, I'm sure you'll be excited to learn that cabbage is currently in season, and we're going to be cooking a whole lot of it!  One person who would be excited to hear this news is our dear old friend Cato the Elder.  Cato was such a fan of cabbage that he wrote an entire chapter in de agri cultura about it!

Cato wrote of cabbage's medicinal properties, rather than its culinary, and some of the highlights include:

  • Dodgy bowels?  Eat cabbage!
  • Can't pee?  Eat cabbage!
  • Sword wound?  Wrap it in cabbage!
  • Dislocation?  Drink cabbage juice!
  • Clogged arteries?  Tried cabbage?
  • Going drinking?  Cabbage please!
  • Drunk?  Cabbage will help!

Bearing all this in mind, after you've tried this week's and next week's recipes, you'll be a paragon of health.  We have three recipes to get through, two involving the leaves and one involving the stalks.  They come from Apicius, where no mention is made of cabbage's medical properties; perhaps the Romans soon learned that it was better to wear armour into battle, rather than relying on cabbage for help.  Now, our first recipe is as follows:

Cook the cabbage in soda water, then squeeze all the water out.  Chop the cabbage up finely.  Crush and add pepper, lovage, satury, and onions, followed by fish sauce, olive oil, and raisin wine. - Apicius, 3.15.1

If you do not have lovage, feel free to substitute finely chopped celery instead.  As for 'satury', even dependable Google failed to find out what it actually is.  Until such times as we know, it's getting left out.

Sweet Cabbage


  • 1/3 Cabbage
  • 1/4 Onion
  • 1/2 tsp Lovage Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 30ml Raisin Wine (Passum)


  • Add the baking soda to a pan of water, and bring to the boil.  The idea behind this is that it keeps the cabbage green, but the downside is that it breaks the cabbage's cells down, making it a bit more mushy.
  • After washing the cabbage, chop up the leaves quite roughly, and boil them in the soda water for 3 or 4 minutes.  Don't over do it.
  • Remove the cabbage, and chop it up finely.
  • Grind up the black pepper and the lovage seeds, chop up the onion, pour in the fish sauce, oil, and wine, and add them all to a pan with the cabbage.  Cook it until the onions are done, and serve.


This wasn't the most visually appealing dish, as the passum turned the onions red, but in terms of taste it was excellent.  The cabbage was remarkably sweet, with a subtle spiciness coming from the pepper and bitterness from the lovage.  The lovage bestowed upon the dish a celery after-taste.  My only suggestion for improvement might be to use a clear dessert wine, or to just use less of it.


  1. Satury is simply some Summer Savoury -

  2. Indeed, it's Savory (Satureja hortensis).

  3. Thank you very much you two! Makes finding it that little bit easier.

  4. Satury seems to be summer savory

  5. Oh, and if you want to keep cabbage (or any other green vegetable) green, put a load of parsley stalks in the water and boil it for a couple of minutes, then take out the parsley stalks (sieve it into another pot) and use the water to boil your cabbage.