The 1st of December has arrived! Hungry Hubby and I had our first day back in work after our two week holiday (that is a long time to be away from the Apple Chapel and its comforting, familiar, homely kitchen). Which meant leftover lasagne for dinner with a simple green salad gobbled up greedily and hurriedly followed by the ritualistic playing of Christmas songs as we decorate our home for yet another festive season.
The aroma of yesterday’s Christmas cake and gingerbread making marathon lingers still yet to augment it further, we lit an apple and spice scented candle and put Christmas tree essential oil in our room diffuser as we worked, singing Santa Baby, All I Want for Christmas and Fairytale in New York loudly and out of tune. Just like every year for the last 14 Christmases, we have spent together.
If it wasn’t a school night, a snowball cocktail (Advocaat, lemonade and lime) would have been my tipple of choice but sensibility prevailed and steaming hot cups of tea in our Christmas mugs helped warm us from the inside. The Apple Chapel is now aglow with a myriad of fairy lights and a selection of tinsel which would have made Joseph snort derisively at his Technicolour Dreamcoat 😉
Which brings me on nicely to today’s Christmas recipe – a make ahead, vegetable side dish of purple jewel coloured red cabbage, in fact, it is Orange & Spice and All Things Nice.
I have been converted to the moreish deliciousness of red cabbage at Christmas time quite a few years ago now. Another delight I’d missed out on up until then, it really is so tasty, it is hard to eat only one serving. Apart from serving alongside your turkey and all the other trimmings, I am actually quite partial to braised red cabbage with big fat bangers and mash.
A very sturdy member of the brassica family, red cabbage is divine either finely shredded into a coleslaw or similar raw salad where it’s crunch and bitterness counter sweeter, softer leaves or you need to cook, cook, cook it until it yields and slumps into a tender tangle of pickled perfection. The first year I made my own, I used a very large red cabbage that came in an organic fruit and veg box I’d treated us to and we were eating it for weeks and weeks to come.
Luckily it survives a lot of cooking and then freezing in portions extremely well; actually, it benefits from being made ahead. Not a true pickle or relish as it stands, the use of vinegar and in this case orange juice helps with the tenderisation of these robust leaves and gives you a lip-smacking, vinegary bite against the sweetness of a little sugar and a base of gently caramelised red onions and some apple. Cinnamon, allspice and star anise warm up the dish and remind you the Yuletide is upon us once more.
Although I suspect I will continue to do little tweaks here and there, I feel this recipe is pretty close to my idea of the perfect braised red cabbage. I started off cooking this in the on the stove, then I tried my slow cooker and was delighted with the results. Slow cooking is great if you have a short working day or home whilst whatever you’re making cooks but if Santa has brought you an Instant Pot pressure cooker, and you are as pushed for time as I am, then you’ll be thrilled to hear you will have perfectly braised red cabbage in just 10 minutes of cooking time!
I give both methods below just be sure you start by shredding your cabbage first to be sure it fits in your chosen cooking apparatus as even a small head has such compacted leaves that you’ll be shocked at the mound of shreds you get once finished with your chopper!
- 20 g butter
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 large Bramley apple roughly chopped
- 2 small red onions finely diced
- 1 star anise
- 1 large quill of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 900 g red cabbage discard the tough core, shredded
- 90 ml cider vinegar
- Zest of one orange* and enough juice to make the vinegar up to 150ml
Set the Instant Pot to Sauté and heat the oil and butter in the pot. Add the apple, onions, spices and sugar and cook for a few minutes until softened, stirring frequently.
Add the cabbage, stir well then mix in the vinegar and orange juice.
Press cancel then put the lid on, setting the nozzle to Sealing. Press Manual and set to 10 minutes.
You can allow the pressure to come down naturally or do a Quick Pressure Release here - the cabbage is hardy enough to withstand a longer cooking time with a NPR.
Stir well and if there is much liquid remaining (there isn't usually) you can use the Sauté function to reduce it down if liked although I like a bit leftover, especially when I freeze it.
*= if you like it sweeter, use clementine zest and juice instead of orange.
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