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Spring cabbage. Spring greens

Who invented these?

If carrots are shock troops, chard and Jerusalem artichokes elite hit squads or SWAT teams, then spring greens/cabbage are the reluctant conscripts of the vegetable world.

Their platoon sergeant despairs of them. He frequently has to put them on jankers (fatigues, if you’re an American) for failing to polish the soles on their spare pair of boots. He has to chuck all their bedding on the floor because they can’t make proper hospital corners. Not one of them remembers to polish the back of their brasses. The sergeant is simply glad he doesn’t have a platoon of turnips on his watch.

Yep, they’re an awkward bunch. You know this. You’ve bought some, because they’re cheap and you get lots for your money. But you tip them out of the bag onto a chopping board, and you think ‘What have I done?’

They lie there, looking not too good to be honest. Dull dark green, with a slightly dusty appearance. You yearn for the sheer visual exuberance of chard. And a bit less attitude. They just look sullen, and have a an attitude that in military parlance is referred to as ‘dumb insolence.’

Time to whip them into shape so they can pass muster at the passing out parade. You are now William Hartnell in the film Carry On Sergeant. Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor await your attention.

Firstly do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, boil greens. They drop into nothing very suddenly. You can stir fry them, steam them, nuke them in the microwave, but do not boil them. Ever. Promise me you won’t do that.

Stir frying

You need a lot of garlic and a lot of ginger

Peel the garlic, and roughly crush it between two teaspoons

Take a good sized bit of root ginger (about the size of your thumb), peel it and make it into golden threads. To do this, slice it longways into very thin slices, stack the slices, and cut them lengthways again. You should end up with shreds of ginger about the size of a matchstick.

Heat three tablespoons of oil (or even better, ghee) in a wok or heavy pan, adding the ginger as it heats up

Cut the greens into 1” pieces across the length

When the ginger starts to sizzle, add the garlic. Stir it about a bit, and leave on a low heat

Wash the greens, drain them but not too much

Mash the garlic with a wooden spatula or spoon, turn up the heat (don’t allow the garlic to burn) then add the greens. It’ll spit a bit. Stir very vigorously. Add some salt if you wish, or a small sprinkle of white sugar. Or both.

When the cabbage starts to wilt, turn it into a warmed serving bowl

Good to go. Though a dash of dark soy won’t go amiss.

If you really want to make this very good indeed, add a handful of shaved almonds or pine nuts at the same time as the cabbage. Cashews work too. Even salted ones. Especially salted ones. Put them in a plastic bag and roughly smack them into bits with a rolling pin before adding them at the same time as the cabbage


Shred the greens and steam them. Don’t overdo the cooking

If you’re nuking, cover the bowl with clingfilm and stab a couple of holes in it. Don’t add any water. The water left over from the washing is all you need. If possible, do the nuking in the serving bowl. It saves washing up

Now what?

The cabbage will still look a bit surly. It will. So tart it up.

A couple of tablespoons of crème fraiche or natural yogurt. Mix it up

A tablespoon of wholegrain mustard. Mix it up

Some crumbled Cheshire cheese. Or feta. Mix it up

Chilli oil. Always works

Moho. Recipe you’ve seen before. It’s miraculous

Mr Hong may stock Chinese sausage. It looks like cabanos a bit, but tastes more like salami. Chop it into fine slices. Mix it up

Pickled gherkins (pickled dill in the US, I think), finely cubed. Mix it up, and add a splash of the pickling vinegar at the same time

Funnily, you can add finely sliced pickled onions too. Not silverskin onions; proper grownup pickled onions. Very finely sliced, and not too many of them

Dry fried coriander seeds work. Even roasted poppy seeds spark things up, but you need a lot of them to make a difference

Horseradish or wasabi. They make thing a bit more intersting