Brassicas are a large family of vegetables, which includes cabbages, broccoli, turnip and mustard greens. All of them can be eaten raw or cooked and they’re incredibly versatile.
Cabbage is a real winter favourite of mine. I love the crinkled green savoy cabbage for braises and the paler, smoother white cabbage for salads. When you’re choosing a cabbage, it should feel heavy with tightly packed leaves and a firm, bright stem without a hint of brown.
People often think of cabbage as something they throw in coleslaw but that’s not all you can do with it. We have a cabbage and pea salad that’s bolted to the menu at Mr Wolf and I’m sure people would march up and down outside the restaurant with placards if I ever took it off. I also love cabbage salad with parmigiano reggiano, parsley and a saba (grape syrup) dressing. Cheese and cabbage can be great together: as well as parmesan, try pecorino, crumbled feta and even ricotta whipped with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. The trick with a cabbage salad is to slice it as finely as you can, because then it stays crisp even after it’s dressed. Also, I often add a pinch of sugar to the dressing to highlight the natural sweetness of the cabbage.
Serve cabbage salad with chops, braises and steaks for a refreshing counterpoint. Add freshly grated apple for extra spark. My mother always served braised cabbage with pork or sausages poached in red wine with potatoes. I also love to braise cabbage with chunks of pancetta.
Brussels sprouts are part of the cabbage family. When you’re choosing them, stand and sort by hand to make sure you get the small, sweet, tightly packed sprouts. It takes longer but the bigger sprouts just aren’t as nice.
Prepare them by cutting a cross in the base, then add them to salted, boiling water for 5 or 6 minutes. Drain them and toss in butter and heaps of black pepper for a simple side dish. My latest discovery is to season and oil the sprouts well, then roast them on a small tray that keeps them tightly packed. I drizzle them with honey and dukka as soon as they come out of the oven.