Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Last of the Winter Cabbage

Readers in the northern hemisphere, maybe you too have been struggling all winter to cook the cabbage that comes in your CSA boxes, that is the only local vegetable in the market, that is cheap and fresh-looking in a sea of expensive and sad vegetables.  I have been experimenting with cabbage recipes all winter, and have to say, have not been excited with the results.  There was cabbage in Japanese-inspired soups, a failed attempt to make sauerkraut, and all varieties of curries!   At last though, an unqualified cabbage success!  Here is a great cabbage and lentil curry that is so yummy and satisfying with rice, with some of Manjula's parathas, or even, thinned out as soup.  Now that other vegetables have returned to the northern hemisphere, the recipe is, perhaps, a season too late.  Because cabbage is cheap and available, it has a reputation as a vegetable of last resort, but, undeserved!  You could save this recipe for next winter, or better yet, even though there are other, more exciting vegetables in the market, choose reliable, delicious cabbage.

Cabbage Curry with Lentils
Makes 6 servings
Takes 1 hour

1 1/2 cup channa dal
turmeric powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
10–12 curry leaves (from one sprig)
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 green chili, sliced lengthwise
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a giant head of cabbage, washed and chopped (easily 2 pounds or about 6 big handfuls)
red chili powder
garam masala or sambhar powder

Soak the channa dal in water for about 30 minutes.

In a sauce pan, bring channa dal, some salt (1 teaspoon for now), and some turmeric (1 teaspoon) and a lot of water to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until channa dal has softened (they will still retain their shape and be a little tough in the middle.  this is ok).

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan or a stock pot, heat some vegetable or canola oil (to cover the bottom of the pan) on high heat.  When it's hot, add the mustard seeds.  When they begin to pop, throw in the cumin seeds.  When those begin browning, add a couple of shakes of asofetida and the curry leaves.  Let saute for just a minute and then add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Saute until soft and let sit for a bit so that the bottom begins to brown, it makes it better!

Add green chili and tomatoes, some turmeric and chilli powder to taste, and saute, until the tomatoes break down, making sure to scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.

Add the cabbage, some salt, and one cup of water, carefully stirring the cabbage into the masala.  When it is all combined, lower heat, cover, and let simmer until the cabbage is softened, 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep checking and turning the cabbage to make sure it cooks evenly.

Check on the chana dal.  Once it is ready, add the dal, and as much of the dal water as necessary to the cabbage to make a saucy curry.  Add more dal water if you would like to eat as soup, a little less if you are eating it with rice or parathas.

Stir it all together, check for salt and spice.  When you are happy, sprinkle with garam masala or sambhar powder, whichever you prefer (I used sambhar powder).  Top with cilantro if you have it.  Enjoy!


  1. Yum! I have also struggled with cabbage, can't wait to try this!

  2. It's really good! I think I spoke to soon, I have another cabbage recipe coming...