Red Cabbage Soup with Crusted Top

I always think of Portugal when I make green cabbage soup; there you are surrounded by the incongruous sight of hundreds of cabbages growing between the vines. But red cabbage too, cooked long and gently, makes a wonderful soup.

Ingredients

  • 225-350 g/8-12 oz red cabbage
  • 225 g/8 oz thick smoked streaky bacon rashers
  • 2 medium onions
  • 25 g/1 oz butter
  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds (optional)
  • 1.5 litres/ pints chicken stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 rounded tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
  • generous handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 25 g/1 oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • salt
  • black pepper

Method

Cut the cabbage in quarters, cut out any core part and slice the rest up very finely. Cut the rind off the bacon and slice into 2.5cm/1 in pieces. Peel the onions, cut in half and slice thinly.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the dill seeds, bacon and onions. Stir over a low heat for a few minutes until the onions have softened. Then stir in the sliced cabbage and add the stock, lemon juice and sugar. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 2 hours.

Shortly before the soup is ready, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Spread the breadcrumbs in a roasting pan and put on a high shelf in the oven for 10-20 minutes, until golden. Turn out into a bowl and mix in the chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. Taste the soup and add salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper. Pour into a tureen and sprinkle the toasted breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top just before serving.

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