It may seem simple, but there is so much texture, taste, beauty and general wonderment that comes from a charred hunk of cabbage. Combine this with the mouth-watering anchovy butter, tangy capers and a sprig of dill, and you have a dish whose char is not, as you might imagine, comparable to that forgotten, black, barbecued sausage, but instead brings heaps of rich flavour and texture to your taste buds, leaving you boggled at how you’ve never cooked it like this before.
My cabbage of choice here is hispi / sweetheart cabbage / spitskool / the pointy green one. This is because, for me, the crunch, flavour, and general stay togetherness of the leaves create a perfect trio for charring. I’m sure if you have a different favourite cabbage, that too will enable you to discover your very own trifecta of char-able qualities.
My pan of choice is a magnificent, 12 inch hand-crafted cast iron frying pan from Victoria Cookware. The space allows me to char as much as I want (important for impatience), the pouring spouts enable me to drizzle my charred cabbage with all the beautiful brown butter that has been bubbling in the bottom of the pan without pouring it simultaneously on myself, my kitchen counter and my floor, and most importantly, the pan itself. It’s cast-iron-ness. The cast iron holds heat like nobody’s business and means that even on my induction cooker (I do prefer fire), I get a beautiful, even char. Not to mention it’s natural non-stick patina that only improves with use (and care – I take care of my pan like it is my child and oil it and heat it after every use. If you have cast iron, you should too.)
Now about my dressing of choice. Whether you want to serve your charred cabbage as a side or the main event, to a veggie or a carnivore, or with a range of cuisines, you have many options at your fingertips. A miso ginger dressing perhaps, or tahini maybe for something creamier. I personally have opted for the browned anchovy butter for a rich, salty, buttery hit, topped with sharp, tangy little capers to cut through the richness and some fresh dill. This, I recommend you try whole heartedly. Even sprinkle on a few toasted hazelnuts too. Dreamy.
Charred cabbage with browned anchovy butter, capers and dill
Timings: 15 mins
Quantities: 2-4 (As a side, one cabbage serves four, as a main, one cabbage serves two.
Kitchen stuff: A cast iron frying pan such as one of these (or other heavy based frying pan)
1 hispi / sweetheart cabbage /pointed white cabbage (or other green cabbage of your choice)
5/6 anchovies in oil, drained
80g / 1/3 cup lightly salted butter (roughly)
Small bunch of dill
1. CABBAGE: Heat your pan up for a few minutes so it’s nice and hot. Cut your cabbage either into quarters if it’s small, or into halves and three wedges per half. Be sure to try and keep a slither of the cabbage core attached to each wedge so the leaves stay together in the pan. Brush each side of the cabbage with some olive oil or vegetable oil and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper.
2. CHAR: Put the cabbage quarters in the hot pan on a medium / high heat with one flat side down, and leave to char for 4/5 minutes. If water is coming out of the cabbage, the pan isn’t hot enough. Use a spatula to check the cabbage after 4/5 minutes, it should be golden brown with charred black edges. If not, turn the heat up slightly and leave for another couple of minutes. Once you have the right colour, turn the cabbage over onto the other flat side and leave to char for a further 3-5 minutes. This side may go a little faster as the pan will be hotter. Once brown and charred, carefully remove the cabbage wedges from the pan to a platter or board, and lay them charred side up.
3. ANCHOVY BUTTER: Whilst the cabbage is cooking on it’s second side, make your anchovy butter. Put a small saucepan or high sided frying pan on medium heat (not too hot otherwise the butter will burn immediately). Roughly chop the anchovy fillets and add them to the pan along with the butter. Use a wooden spoon to break up the anchovy pieces and help them melt into the butter. Swirl the butter in the pan until it starts to go brown and froth. If it’s not browning or frothing, turn up the heat a little. As soon as the butter is golden brown and the anchovy pieces have melted into it (with chunks remaining), remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a little bowl or jug to stop it cooking further. Use a spatula to get all the good bits that might remain in the pan. Ideally, you want the butter to be ready at the same time as the cabbage.
4. DRIZZLE: Whilst the butter and the cabbage are both still hot, drizzle the wedges with spoons of anchovy butter, so it drizzles between the cabbage leaves and the cabbage wedges get a spattering of little chunks of salty anchovy. Then top with two or three heaped teaspoons of little capers (they don’t like to stay on the wedge, so you just have to include them in your forkful) and some sprigs of dill. Serve immediately.