Monday, 18 February 2013

Cabbage - Three Ways (part 2 of 2)

I'm sure that by now last week's cabbage recipe has gone down a treat, and you've all had the chance to witness those health benefits for yourself.  If, however, you're not yet as keen for cabbage as Cato, then I hope that with this week's recipes, you will be.  In all honesty, last week's recipe was the weakest of the three.  Of these two, the first is enjoyable, but the second is truly spectacular, convincing me that it is the Romans, and not us, who have it right when it comes to cooking cabbage.

Cumin and Coriander Cabbage
(serves 1)

Mash cabbage leaves and season them with coriander, onion, cumin, pepper, raisin wine (passum) or condensed wine (defrutum), and a little olive oil. - Apicius, 3.ix.3


  • 1/3 Cabbage
  • 1/4 Small Onion
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Raisin Wine
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Baking Soda


  • Add the baking soda to boiling water before adding the washed and chopped up cabbage.  It should take just 3 or 4 minutes to cook.  Reserve some of the cooking liquid, but drain the rest away and set the cabbage to the side.
  • Heat up a frying pan, and toast the cumin and peppercorns until they start to release their aroma.  Remove them from the pan and grind with a mortar and pestle.
  • Chop the onion and add it to the pan with a bit of the cabbage cooking liquid.
  • When the onions are cooked (again, just a few minutes), add the ground spices, the raisin wine, the olive oil, the chopped coriander, and finally the cabbage.  Let this cook for a few minutes, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate.
  • Dish up!


This cabbage certainly looks a lot more appetising than the red mush which was the last recipe, but by Jupiter is it spicy!  The cabbage, which we're used to eating boiled and bland (think school dinners), has developed quite the kick when cooked this way.  In Apicius this recipe was simply cabbage 'another way', but so prominent are the cumin and coriander that I feel they deserve a place in the title.  One MASSIVE thing to note is that this dish is entirely lacking in fish sauce!

Roast Cabbage Stalks
(also serves 1)

Place the cooked stalks in a baking dish.  Add some fish sauce and oil, season with cumin, and sprinkle with ground pepper, leeks, and chopped green coriander. - Apicius, 3.ix.2


  • Cabbage Stalks
  • 2 Inches of Leek
  • 1.5 tbsp Fresh Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil


  • When preparing some of the other cabbage recipes, cut away the thick stalks running through the centre of the leaves.  Chop these in half lengthways.
  • Cut the bottom 2 inches off a leek, and chop it up finely.  Mix the leeks with the cabbage stalks, and steam however you see fit.  I opted for the metal colander over a saucepan of boiling water approach.
  • Chop up the coriander, toast and grind the peppercorns and cumin seeds, and pop the lid off your fish sauce and olive oil.  When the leeks and cabbage stalks are ready, put them in a baking dish.  Pour/sprinkle everything else over them, ensuring that they are well coated.
  • Put the baking dish in an oven at 180 Celsius for 20 minutes.
  • When finished, sprinkle with a bit more black pepper, and enjoy.


With a little bit of love and attention, the stalks become the best thing about the cabbage.  Thanks to the fish sauce and the leeks, these are a salty, savoury treat well worth the making.  I was actually taken aback by how enjoyable they were, and only wish I'd made more to eat!

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