What is it about cabbage that so many people are sniffy about? Even in winter when it’s at its very best, it seems to rank even lower than potatoes on the popularity scales.

I ADORE cabbage in all its forms, despite the best efforts of my boarding school to put me off cabbage for life.

For me, cabbage ticks all the boxes, lots of different varieties from crinkly Savoy to pointy Hispi and January King. There’s green, red and white cabbage, Chinese cabbage and drumhead for coleslaw. Inexpensive, yet packed with vitamins and minerals. What’s not to like about a lovely head of cabbage that provides us with so many options?

Cabbage is revered in many countries. Where would the Germans be without cabbage for sauerkraut? In Romania, there’s a Cabbage Festival in Mosna over the first weekend in October. It takes place in the centre of the charming Saxon village and is an opportunity to taste a variety of traditional cabbage recipes.

I’ll never forget the sweet juicy Romanian cabbage salad I ate in Mosna a number of years ago which makes me long to return to Transylvania. Can you imagine longing to get back to a country because of the flavour of cabbage?!

And then there is the beloved veggie vendor, Cabbage Man, in the animated television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, streaming on Netflix. Perhaps he will be the one to make people lust after cabbage once again.

I have a particular yen for cabbage for a variety of reasons, not least because when I cooked shredded cabbage quickly in melted butter with a sprinkling of water in my first Simply Delicious cooking series, it caused a sensation!

The method was a revelation for the many cooks who hadn’t ever thought of cooking cabbage in any way, other than in a large pot of water for a long time. So, if you can be famous for just one thing, it could be your cabbage!

More recently, we’ve discovered how delicious roast cabbage can be with crispy charred edges. Couldn’t be easier, just cut in wedges, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil., season all over with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and maybe a few chilli flakes.

Roast in a hot oven to 220˚C/425˚F until tender inside, turning occasionally to brown evenly.

We’ve got lots of cabbage salad recipes, try this one. I love the sweetness of the sultanas and the freshness of the dill and then there’s the crunch of the roasted almonds.

Cabbage rolls take a little more effort to make but they are so comforting and delicious, try these. They have an Asian, as opposed to Transylvanian flavour, which I also love.

And how about making your own sauerkraut? It’s really, really easy to do and will open up a whole new world and greatly enhance your gut biome which as you know impacts both our physical and mental health.

Cabbage is also the main ingredient in kimchi but it’s better to use Chinese cabbage for that so in this column we will focus on ordinary cabbage. Cabbage, cooked to melting tenderness in bacon water, is just wonderful folded or beaten into soft potato mash to make one of our most delicious traditional dishes, colcannon.

It also makes a delicious soup which always surprises and then converts the most ardent cabbage haters.

Penny Allen’s Ballymaloe Basic Sauerkraut

At its most basic sauerkraut is chopped or shredded cabbage that is salted and fermented in its own juice. It has existed for thousands of years and sailors carried it on ships to ward off scurvy because of its high Vitamin C content.

Penny Allen’s Ballymaloe Basic Sauerkraut


  • 800g (1 3/4lb) of cabbage OR 600g (1 1/4lbs) of cabbage plus
  • 200g (7oz) of a mixture of any of the following: grated carrot, turnip, celeriac, onion
  • 3 level teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 x 1 litre Kilner jar or similar
  • Small jar to act as a weight inside the lid of the 1-litre jar


  1. Wash the cabbage if it’s muddy. Take off any damaged outside leaves. Quarter the cabbage, core it and then finely shred each quarter.
  2. Mix the cabbage and the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hands, scrunch cabbage and other vegetables with salt until you begin to feel the juices being released. Continue for a few minutes. Pack a little at a time you’re your Kilner jar and press down hard using your fist – this packs the kraut tight and helps force more water out of the vegetables. Fill the Jar about 80% full to leave room for the liquid that will come out of the vegetables as it starts to ferment.
  3. Place a clean weight on top of the cabbage (a small jar works well). This weight is to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine. This is the most important thing to get your ferment off to the right start. (Under the brine, all will be fine!)
  4. Set the jar on a plate just in case some brine escapes while it is fermenting. Place on a countertop to ferment at room temperature for at least 3 weeks and up to 6 weeks. As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing them well. It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time. Once you have opened it, it’s best to keep it in the fridge where it will last for months.

Buttered Cabbage

The flavour of this quickly-cooked cabbage has been a revelation for many and has converted numerous determined cabbage haters back to Ireland’s national vegetable.

Buttered Cabbage

Preparation Time

5 mins


  • 450g (1lb) fresh Savoy cabbage
  • 25g (1oz) butter or more if you like
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a knob of butter


  1. Remove the tough outer leaves and divide the cabbage into four. Cut out the stalks and then cut each section into fine shreds across the grain.
  2. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and the knob of butter. Serve immediately.

Riffs on Buttered Cabbage

Cabbage with Caraway Seeds

Add 1-2 tablespoons of caraway seeds to the cabbage and toss constantly as above.

Cabbage with Crispy Bacon

Fry 2-3 streaky rashers in a little oil while the cabbage cooks then cut into strips and add to the cabbage at the end.

Emily’s Cabbage

Add 3 teaspoons or more of fresh thyme leaves.

Cabbage with Sichuan Peppercorns

Add 1 teaspoon of highly crushed Sichuan peppercorns to taste.

Charred Cabbage with Katsuobushi

Charred cabbage is a revelation, who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift this humble vegetable into a whole new cheffy world?

Charred Cabbage with Katuobushi

Preparation Time

5 mins


  • 1 medium-sized cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil or a neutral oil
  • 50-110g (2-4oz) butter
  • Katuobushi flakes (optional)
  • flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Trim the cabbage. Cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 4.
  3. Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on medium heat until well seared on both cut surfaces, and add butter to the pan. When the butter melts and becomes ‘noisette’, spoon the melted butter over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with sea salt, cover and continue to cook, basting regularly for about 10 minutes. Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure it’s tender through.
  4. Add some Katuobushi flakes (if using) to the butter and baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle some more Katuobushi flakes over the top and serve immediately.


All cultures that have cabbage and potatoes put them together in some form. In Ireland, we have colcannon, in England Bubble and Squeak but the Scottish version is called Rumbledethumps.


Preparation Time

5 mins


  • 450g (1lb) freshly mashed potatoes
  • 225g (8oz) kale or spring cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped spring onion
  • 150ml (5fl oz) cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • butter (optional)


  1. Cook the cabbage in a little boiling salted water, and drain well. If cooking kale, cook in a large pan of boiling salted water (6 pints water to 3 teaspoon salt).
  2. Put the cream into a large pot with the spring onion, bring slowly to a boil, and add the potatoes and freshly cooked cabbage. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes. To taste, you could add a lump of butter if you like – the Scots do!

Hot Tips

To Celebrate St. Brigid’s Day – A Wellness Course with Maria Walsh at Ballymaloe Cookery School on 1st February 2023
Focusing on optimum health from nature’s bounty.

The course will include the importance of mindful morning practice to start your day, breath work, body self-care hacks, coffee alternatives, natural beauty and cleaning products from your kitchen cupboard ingredients, hedgerow medicine focusing on seasonal spring plants and much, much more…

2.30 pm – 5 pm – recipes and refreshments included.

Ellie’s Kitchen Hot Sauces

African food is super-hot at present – It’s really having a moment as we all discover a whole new cuisine. Malawian-born activist and Ballymaloe Cookery School 12-week graduate Ellie Kisyombe has created a range of hot (and pasta) sauces inspired by Africa and made here in Ireland. A variety of tempting flavours including Extra Extra Hot Chilli Sauce, Mild Lemon and Herb Hot Sauce, Smokey Lemon Hot Sauce…Seek them out, each hot sauce will perk up your Summer dishes deliciously.

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