Friday, 16 October 2009

Cabbages and Kings

Most of us have heard the lines 'the time has come,' the walrus said, 'to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings' (Lewis Carroll), but how many of us heard of the ancient Greek saying ‘cabbages twice cooked is death’ (me neither, until quite recently)?

Anyway, here are two of my cabbages sliced open: Marner Red Fruerot and Minicole. Splendid! Cabbages likes broccoli, sprouts and kohlrabi all belong to the Brassica family. It is also known as the Cruciferae family, so called because their flowers have four petals arranged as a cross. A cross with arms of equal length is a symbol of the sun. Cabbages are extremely hardy and thrive in cold damp winters and are capable of withstanding temperatures which would destroy many other crops. In my first year of growing cabbages I had problems with clubroot, I was told to twist a narrow strip of tinfoil around the roots of the cabbage plants to prevent cabbage fly, but I never did, as I had been fortunate in the coming year. I also read that it is worth planting a stick of rhubarb amongst cabbage plants as it apparently prevents club root. However, the one thing I still seem to be doing wrong is not planting them deep enough, as every cabbage grows up in the air like a football on a pole, rather than thick to the ground. I must find a way to remedy that next year.
There are a variety of Cabbages: Green white, red and even purple cabbages and the ruffled leaves of Savoys are familiar to most of us. But over the past few years, we have seen the appearance of newer varieties, in particular Asian cabbages with their milder flavours, subtle differences and their culinary uses are still unusual to many of us. Under the category of Chinese cabbages, we find varieties such as Napa, the tall Michihli (also called celery cabbage), the flat cabbage, the flowering white cabbage, Tai-sai, Lei-choi, and Pakchoi, also known as bok choy; and under the European category we find: minicole, hispi, greyhound also known as sweetheart, the name changed perhaps to make us look at it with more appeal.

Cabbages are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. The cabbage has a place in almost every cuisine from Korean kim chee, German sauerkraut, and Irish colcannon. However, even with the infinite number of cabbages appearing at our grocery stores and supermarkets, we as Brits are still not as creative with it and end up making the usual dishes at home, such as as coleslaw, bubble and squeak or stir-fries – all of which I have been guilty of. But it is not just our lack of creativity that limits our use of the cabbage. The cabbages somewhat unglamorous reputation has also halted many of us from cooking or even eating it in our homes. For centuries, the over cooking (boiling to death) of cabbages has put us off the taste; and if it is not the taste, it is the smell. Anyone who has sat near a kitchen or entered a building where a cabbage was being boiled would not have been able to escape its anti-social emission (pooh-wee). Modern science has explained the smells of the cabbage as simply a release of hydrogen sulphide, but this fact still has not done the cabbage any favour. It will take a Great chef to transform the cabbage into a culinary delight, so that is graces many a table with joy and delight. Until then, please enjoy my humble offering of cabbage spring rolls.
I had originally thought about getting D to make some of his coleslaw, but then changed my mind for something different. I decided to make these spring rolls with subtle oriental flavours. I am sending this post to Cinzia of Cindystar for Weekend Herb Blogging #205, the weekly event founded by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and now coordinated by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once.
I liked the cabbage spring rolls the subtle flavour of the sesame oil came through, but I did not enjoy the dipping sauce. This dipping sauce contained grapefruit marmalade which I found too bitter for me. I also thought the flavour of the marmalade overwhelmed the subtle flavours in the spring rolls.
Red and Green Cabbage Spring rolls
Makes about 12
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 large white onion, finely sliced
1 small red cabbage, cut in half then finely sliced
1 small white or green cabbage, cut in half then finely sliced
3 stalks of celery, finely sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
Black pepper to taste
About 12-16 large spring roll wrappers
Oil sealing and for baking
Heat the oil in a wide pan. Add the onion and saute over moderate heat until translucent. Add celery and cook for a few minutes until well coated. Now divide the onion mixture in two and transfer to another pan. To one pan add the red cabbage, to the other add the green cabbage and sauté until the cabbage are cooked through and translucent. Season to taste with soy sauce and pepper.
When the mixture is cool, divide it amongst 12 – 16 spring roll wrappers. I lightly sealed the wrappers with some oil. Then baked them in the oven on a lightly greased tray at gas mark 5 for 10 minutes, then flipped them over for a further 5 minutes on the other side.

Marmalade dipping sauce
½ cup of orange or grapefruit marmalade
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
½ grated ginger
1 tsp soy sauce
Dash of cayenne pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a small serving dish and set aside. Adapted from Vegetarian Celebrations by Nava Atlas.


  1. I must get around to making spring rolls some time. I do love them, but always buy them ready made. Where do you buy your wrappers?

    These cabbage spring rolls are very appealing. I would have been tempted to dip them in sweet chilli sauce, which is my favourite.

  2. I envy you being able to grow cabbages without them looking like a lace tablecloth! Mine just get eaten to shreds so I don't bother any more.

  3. Ive never seen cabbage look so fresh! yum! I use cabbage in my spring rolls too mmm I feel like some right now. I usually dip mine in sweet chilli sauce :)


  4. Thanks Jacqueline,
    I get my wrappers from two differnt stores either the Chinese supermarket specialising in South East cuisine or a South Asian store. I usually find them in the freezer section.

    I made some chilli jam (that didnt set well)early on in the month, so I will definately be eating the left over spring rolls with that. So would say to you, yes go ahead with the sweet chilli sauce.

    Thanks Matron,
    I have been fortunate to be able to grow cabbages without them looking like a lace tablecloth, because most of the season they are covered by decent netting, that won't allow the white butterfly to get through and lay her eggs. But I do still have problrms with what's lurking beneath - the slug, many of my cabbages outer skin were not so perfect, but edible nonetheless.

    I would certainly encourage you to have a go again, perhaps with a smaller varieities, that's what I have done.

    Hiya Rose,
    Thanks, nice to know that this combination is already appreciated. I agree with you that sweet chilli sauce is the dip to use for spring rolls, that is what I will do in the future if I was to make these style of spring rolls again.

    PS Have I told you that my computer keeps freezing, and then crashing everytime I come over and visit your blog. Boo hoo.

  5. Gorgeous looking cabbages! I am going to cook up some braised red cabbage with apples tomorrow and your blog inspires reminds me to grow my own red cabbages for next year. Are they any different to grow from green or white ones?

  6. Love this recipe, and thanks for the info about growing cabbage. (Your cabbages are downright beautiful!) I tried growing them this year but my cabbage had an unappealing white dust, and I'm not sure what caused it. I will try again though.

  7. Thanks FlowerPowerGirl.
    The red cabbages are no different to grow from green or white ones. I would recommend them.

    Thank you so much Kalyn,
    Usually red cabbages have a greyish-dusty tinge, but once washed they are okay. I am not too sure about white dust though.

  8. great post on cabbages and your cabbages look beautiful - love them in spring rolls

  9. Oh no really! eeek I wonder why that is? Maybe I should make it so its less posts per page, i wonder if that would help? i will try and change it now, im sorry it keeps making your computer crash :(


  10. Oh Rose,
    Please don't change it on my account, it is probably my computer is not compatible. I will just to have to find a way round it.

  11. Oh Johanna,
    How can I forget you. Thank you for your comment, it is really appreciated.

  12. I changed it to 3 posts per page, not sure if it would make any different to you. But if its happening to you, it would probably be happening to others, so i thought it was worth a try :)


  13. Yum! I love all kinds of cabbage and it is so inexpensive here. I also just made cabbage filled eggrolls. Your spring rolls look great!

  14. Thanks Rose,
    You know wnow that it has made a difference.

    Hi Michele,
    Cabbage fiulled eggrolls sound interesting.

  15. Sorry I am late but had a very busy week.
    Shall I love more cabbages trying this recipe? Hope so!
    Thanks for participating!

  16. No need to apologise Cindystar. I totally understand.

    Thank you for hosting and visiting my blog.


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