Getting brave with Brassicas

I have mentioned that I have a love-hate relationship with brassicas, but I think that, at last, I’m growing up.  I’ve had to because we grow them – a lot – and I’ve had to think of creative ways of dishing them up.  In the last three or so months, we’ve had more broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage than we’ve known what to do with.  So, I’ve learned to be a bit more adventurous….sometimes….


Red Cabbage - cutI avoid white cabbage – like the plague.  White cabbage, presented as a seasonal vegetable in any establishment, will guarantee my never returning.  Red cabbage is beautiful – inside and out, and in addition to doing it in a slaw (usually with a French dressing), I also cook it.  My mother used to make “Apple Cabbage” – a family favourite.  So do I, but with a twist.  She would sauté chopped onion, and then add the shredded cabbage and a chopped apple (no water other than that on the cabbage, if you’ve had to rinse it).  I do all of this and add a good glug of apple cider vinegar.  In addition to enhancing the flavours, the vinegar stops the red cabbage from going blue.  Instead, it remains a gorgeous purple.

Cabbage cooked this way is a wonderful accompaniment to a roast and/or any meal, particularly pork or beef; it’s a wonderful blast of colour in any meal.  Also, and useful to know when one is cooking for only two, like I often do, prepared this way, the cabbage freezes well, with no deterioration in the flavour, so one can cook an entire cabbage, portion it and store to use at another time.

For some of our friends, I’m delighted to say, this is a very popular part of my repertoire!


Like cabbage, overcooked cauliflower is good for neither man nor beast and brings back not-so-great memories of institutional food.  It’s a smell that’s hard to get out of one’s head.  Anyway, having happily discovered roasted cauliflower, I was game to experiment, myself.

A few weeks ago, we had a surfeit of cauliflowers that were beginning to look like many-tentacled creatures from outer space rather than the beautiful white crowns that we are used to.  That meant that whole roasted cauliflower was out of the question.

Cauli_before_after_roast2014Not to be thwarted, I decided to break up the cauli into florets and to roast them with a bit of olive oil, garlic and chopped bacon.  Once roasted, I sprinkled this with grated Parmesan and, wow, was it delicious!

Broccolini_cheatCheat’s Broccolini

Like the cauliflower, the broccoli was also beginning to bolt, thanks to an unseasonal but welcome warm spell.  That meant broccoli soup and/or broccoli and blue were out of the question.  Blanched broccoli in a salad is delicious, so I came up with this very simple broccoli(ni) salad:

I tidied up, blanched and refreshed the stalks, and laid them out on a platter.  Over that I sprinkled a crushed clove of garlic, the  juice of a lemon, salt and pepper and, of course, olive oil.  Difficult, hey?


15 thoughts on “Getting brave with Brassicas

  1. I disagree about white cabbage although not my choice, but you can make it edible with the usual suspects. And use it in salad. I’ll be honest, I don’t buy it but when I’m given it…

    Red cabbage, in salad too and exactly as you describe when it’s cooked. Sometimes with raisins but I don’t bother. Apple is fine.

    You can grow cauliflower? I am in awe!

    Now, why didn’t you pick the broc earlier?

    1. My antipathy about white cabbage is directly related to negative childhood/adolescent associations, so. Not entirely rational… I found growing cauliflower surprisingly easy… As for picking the broc earlier, life and warm weather happened 😉

  2. You didnt mention Brussel Sprouts….. my absolutely favorite veg…simply steamed with butter and black pepper. YUM. On the matter of green cabbage…shred some and chop a little chili and garlic…turn the stove up v high and literally scorch the cabbage chili and garlic. Then remove and crack an egg in…mix and add salt and pepper..try it!

    1. No, I didn’t get to sprouts – I want to grow them next year. I love them, too! And buy them whenever I see them… I will certainly try that cabbage option. We have lots of red cabbage coming, too….

  3. For some reason my Canadian wife manages to do the same with purple cabbage. I wish you could settle an argument for me. What is the best way to prepare brussel sprouts?

    1. I’m not sure there’s a best way. Sharle, who commented earlier, suggests “simply steamed with butter and black pepper”. I tend to agree – definitely not cooked to death and also definitely whole. If you think they’re a bit big and may not cook evenly, cut a little cross in the base – that’s what my mum used to do, and I do it, too. Works a treat. Also, I think that brussels sprouts are something that people either like or they don’t 🙂

      1. Well, my favorite method is to cut the stem off, peel the outer layer of leaf (they are rubbery) cut the cross up about 1/3 of the sprout, and steam with ginger powder and lemon slices. It gives consistent texture and a pleasant flavor. Other people ( I won’t mention her name ) think you just toss them in a steamer and hope the gravy covers any issues. I’ll have to try butter and black pepper.

        1. That sounds like a lovely way to cook them. I’ll give it a go. I think that she-who-shall-be-nameless is someone who just doesn’t like them. Like some people just don’t like olives….. We can’t hold that against them 😉

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