Rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, cabbage is one of those veggies you can enjoy in many different ways. Some people hold back because it’s famous for causing profuse bottom burps high on the malodorous meter. The gas is due to high fibre and FODMAP content and the whiff is caused by a sulfurous compound called sulforaphane. FODMAPs (an acronym for Fructose, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols) are essentially poorly absorbed sugars and polyols (sugar alcohols) that ferment in the bowel and create gases that are actually beneficial but can also cause misery in people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) who tend to be sensitive to FODMAPs.
Cabbage is most aggressive when raw and is tamed by cooking and particularly by fermenting; another bonus for this ancient preservation method. Cabbage can become stinky even before you eat it but you can prevent this by not over cooking it. Try it stir-fried with sliced onion and finished with a dash of balsamic or raspberry vinegar.
Sauerkraut is one of the most well known fermented foods. The word sauerkraut is German but it’s popular throughout Eastern Europe, and the Dutch and French also have their own versions. Fermenting cabbage was traditionally used to preserve a glut of cabbage without refrigeration and has become popular again with a trend toward more wholesome, home-made, natural foods, as well as food preserving. The recipe is very simple and the flavour comes from the magic that happens when lactic acid bacteria have their way with shredded cabbage – a process similar to making yoghurt from milk. Sauerkraut is basically cabbage that has been left to stew in its own juice. The result is sour, a bit salty and marvellously complex. Making sauerkraut is pretty simple as it only requires salt and a bit of elbow grease. Simply bruise shredded cabbage, add salt, weigh the cabbage down with something heavy and fill with water. You could add some spices such as juniper berries to the water, or mix in some red cabbage to make pink sauerkraut. You need to leave it about a month.
Slaw is short for coleslaw, also known as cabbage salad and is a recipe as old as the hills and used to be as uncool as they come. It just goes to show everything old can be new again. I’m delighted this salad classic is having its moment in the sun. I was amazed to discover that slaw was not invented by the Australian Country Women’s Association (a group of strong, resourceful rural women famous for their food skills), but rather it is quite cosmopolitan in its provenance. The American classic is made with mayonnaise rather than vinaigrette dressing; the German version krautsalad often has apple; the Italians have one called capricciosapizzasallad (and they eat it with pizza); and the British version has carrot and red onion (and this is the one I grew up with). The ’slaw I make most often now is Asian style with cabbage, carrot, spring onion, fried noodles and sesame oil vinaigrette- yum. ‘Slaw adds colour, crunch, flavour and health to rolls, wraps and sandwiches, and makes a smashing side to grilled meats or fish.