Cavolo Rosso

Red Cabbage

Not an immediate choice when Italian vegetable cooking springs to mind, however certain principles used are very Italian, especially the sweet and sour ‘gastric’ made before the cabbage is started. This dish is virtually inseparable from the Roast Belly of Pork; it takes roughly the same amount of time and attention, and is cooked in the same oven. Together they make a hearty and simple winter dinner. Like the pork, the cabbage is good cold or reheated.

This may not be fast food, but it is simple food. You will need a cast-iron casserole with a lid, and a food processor with a slicer blade would be helpful for the cabbage.

Ingredients

  • 1 red cabbage, about 1.5 kg, finely sliced
  • 4 juniper berries
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • sea salt and pepper
  • a little sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sprig rosemary
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

In a small pan toast the juniper berries for 3–4 minutes with the peppercorns, then add ½ tbsp sea salt and transfer to a pestle and mortar or spice grinder, and pulverise. Heat 2 tbsp sunflower oil in the casserole over a high heat, then add the onion and colour lightly. Add the juniper berry mix to the onion, then the bay leaves and rosemary leaves stripped from the sprig. The onion should now be browning. Toss and add the sugar, then continue cooking for a minute or so to allow the sugar to caramelise slightly. Add the vinegar and continue cooking over a high heat until the vinegar has evaporated. Add the cabbage and, off the heat, mix thoroughly. Cover and put in the oven with the pork. After half an hour remove both dishes: stir the cabbage and carefully pour any fat accumulating in the pork roasting pan over the cabbage. Cover the cabbage again, and return both dishes to the oven.

If you insist on ignoring my advice and cooking the cabbage on its own, then add copious quantities of dripping or duck fat instead of sunflower oil at the beginning of the cooking procedure. Ideally you should repeat the procedure of moistening the cabbage with the fat one more time. The cabbage should go into the oven after the pork, when the temperature is turned down to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

When you serve it, try to find and discard the bay leaves. Serve the cabbage in a mound under the roast belly pork.

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