Monday, August 16, 2010

Considering Cabbage.

This week I have set myself a little challenge – to see if I can keep you interested over a whole week of posts on the topic of cabbage.

The cabbage is not a glamorous (artichokes, perhaps?) or sexy (truffles, asparagus?) or fun vegetable ((as potatoes can be), but it is ancient, useful, adaptable, and worthy of respect. The name is old, and is derived from the Latin caput for ‘head’, which is self-explanatory. Botanically speaking an ‘ordinary’ cabbage is “a plane-leaved cultivated variety of Brassica oleracea, the unexpanded leaves of which form a compact globular heart or head.” The specifics of ‘plane-leaved’ and ‘compact globular heart or head’ are important, for as we have seen in a previous post, the full gamut of cabbage, broccoli, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts (and others) are simply different cultivars of the same Brassica oleracea. See what I mean about being adaptable?

The cabbage is also adaptable to many different sorts of recipes, as I hope to show you this week. To start with, I want to consider this most ancient and adaptable vegetable it in that most ancient and adaptable dish – soup. We have had recipes for cabbage soup in previous stories – a Russian version from 1862, and three versions from the same cookery book published in 1907 – but I say there is always room for another good soup recipe.

A very early recipe for cabbage soup appears in The Forme of Cury, the manuscript cookery book compiled in about 1390 by the Master Cooks of King Richard II. The dish of cabbage, minced onions, and leeks cooked in a good broth and spiced with saffron and other spices would be just as acceptable today, and proves that there is no expiry date on a good idea.

Caboches in Potage.
Take Caboches and quarter hem and seeth hem in gode broth with Oynouns y minced and the whyte of Lekes y slyt and corue smale, and do thereto safroun an salt and force it with powder douce.

My translation: take cabbages, and quarter them, and simmer them in good broth with minced onions and leeks sliced and chopped small, and add saffron, and salt, and sweet spices.

Quotation for the Day.
“Having a good wife and rich cabbage soup, seek not other things”
Russian Proverb.


Unknown said...

That soup does sound pretty good! But I love cabbage, so I'm quite possibly biased. When I saw 'hem' the first thing I thought was 'ham', so perhaps my olde English translation needs some work!

Sharlene T. said...

I so agree with you, the cabbage is the most versatile of all vegetables and I dearly love discovering new ways to use it. Thank you for a great history… Come visit when you can

Twitter: SolarChief

The Old Foodie said...

I love cabbage too, and I am definitly going to try a version of that soup.