Ingredient of the Week: Cabbage
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, belonging to the brassica family, like kale, broccoli, cauliflower and swede. There are many different varieties and colours of cabbage, including spring, savoy, white, green and red. It consists of many separate leaves, fitting together to form an almost round shape or head. In some varieties the leaves can be very smooth to touch, these tend to be packed closer together than the more waffle like textured ones, which tend to be more spread out. No matter which variety of cabbage you have, it is still packed full of important nutrients that are beneficial to your health.
Why is it good for me?
Cabbage is an excellent source of many antioxidants, including the micronutrients vitamin C and manganese, making it beneficial for fighting off infection and reducing inflammation. This results in potentially protecting against conditions such as heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, vision loss and cancer. Further adding to its antioxidant benefits, cabbage has been found to contain around 20 flavonoids and 15 phenols, phytonutrients found in plants that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. This means cabbage is exceptionally good at protecting against inflammation and infection.
Other vitamins that cabbage is a good source of are vitamin K, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12 (folate). Vitamin K helps blood to clot and heal any wounds, again benefiting prevention of infection. Vitamins B6 and B12 help the body’s metabolic system, while also both playing an important role in the formation of healthy red blood cells, needed for transporting oxygen around the body and providing muscles with energy.
Vitamin C is not only needed for fighting off infection, but it also plays an important role in the healthy development of skin, connective tissue, bones and muscles. It does this by helping to produce collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Vitamin C also helps with the body’s uptake of plant based iron, or non-haem iron, needed for healthy red blood cells and oxygen transportation. This is even more vital for people eating a vegetarian diet, as they don’t consume haem iron or animal based iron, which is more readily absorbed by the body.
How do I prepare it?
Cabbages are generally quite large, so one will tend to be enough for 3 or 4 meals. I firstly cut the size of piece of cabbage away, that I need and keep the rest for another time. Cabbage keeps really well, so this isn’t a problem. Its best to store any remaining cabbage, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge and its worth taking in to consideration, that the longer you leave cut cabbage, the less vitamin C it will contain when used, as it very easily reacts with oxygen and leaches out. Its best to use it as soon as possible. I then remove the outer leaves and discard them. Then slice off the base and any thick woody central core. I then slice the wedge in to thin strips, separating out all the leaves as I go. You can get several different kitchen gadgets that help you shred, grate or spiralise cabbage if you need it particularly finely or evenly cut.
How do I cook it?
Cabbage can be fried, boiled, steamed or baked. If over-cooked, it starts to smell very bad! So be very careful not to do this. The leaves should still have some bite to them and not be limp and floppy. As a general guide, cabbage on its own needs 4-6 minutes if boiling, 4-8 if steaming and 2-4 if stir-frying. Although traditionally cabbage is steamed or boiled, the most nutritious way to cook it, is by frying or sautéing.
Cabbage can also be eaten raw, the popular dish of coleslaw contains raw cabbage. Pickled or fermented versions of cabbage are also popular, such as sourcrout and kimchi. Raw cabbage goes really well in a salad and popular ingredients to pair with it include, walnuts, raisins, carrots, apple and beetroot.
There are many dishes you can add cabbage to, personally my favourite is in a stir-fry, like this cabbage and radish one, or this miso fish with cabbage and samphire. It is a popular addition to soups, like this cabbage minestrone recipe, or in a stew, like this creamy prawn and barley one-pan. Something a little different to do with cabbage is this curried cabbage, courgette and broad beans. Its a cross between a curry and a stir-fry.
One of my favourite ways to enjoy cabbage is as a side, stir-fried with onion or leek, bacon and mushrooms. I enjoy it so much, that sometimes I make it in to an actual meal by bulking it out with lentils or rice. Theres so much more to this nutritious vegetable than over boiled smelly slop, that reminds you of old peoples homes. Try something new with it and let me know how you get on.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.