Brunkål (Swedish-style cabbage)
- Serves 8
- Hands-on time 15 min,oven time 2-3 hours
It’s not necessarily the showiest dishes that hold the deepest meaning. For restaurateur, Great British Menu judge and musician Andi Oliver, this simple cabbage side dish, cooked with long-time friend and musical collaborator Neneh Cherry, is the stuff of life.
Brunkål is simply gorgeous. The literal translation is ‘brown cabbage’ which sounds less appealing, but it’s one of those beautifully simple, unassuming dishes that has the ability to envelop and soothe – perfect for the Christmas table.
- 8.5g (5.3g saturated)
- 13g (12.9g sugars)
- 80g unsalted butter
- 2 medium white cabbages, thinly sliced, with the tougher stalks removed (see know how)
- 3 tbsp golden syrup
- 450ml good-quality chicken stock
- ½ tsp caraway seeds
- Small handful fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
- Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add handfuls of the cabbage and cook down until soft and starting to brown. Transfer each batch to a large roasting tin, repeating until you’ve used up all the cabbage.
- Add 1 tbsp golden syrup and 150ml of the chicken stock to the tin, stir well and transfer to the oven to bake for 1 hour. Repeat the process, adding another tablespoon of the golden syrup and another 150ml chicken stock, and cook for a further 1 hour. Repeat the process so both are used up, also adding the caraway seeds. Stir and baste the cabbage each time you add liquid and watch it carefully for the final hour. It should be a rich brown colour when it’s finished. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir for a final time and serve scattered with chopped parsley alongside your usual Christmas fare.
Andi says: “The cabbage is earthy and sweet, and cooking it is all about ritual. You can start it the day before, and you return time and time again to the roasting tray of slowly caramelising cabbage, stock, butter and syrup: basting and turning and turning and basting throughout the evening while you cook other, bigger, more showy things; pouring wine, chatting, laughing, playing Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke, and relaxing into those long, magical Christmas cooking days.
My Swedish best friend, Neneh Cherry, taught me this dish so long ago I can’t even remember the first time we made it; I have a feeling we were at our friend Grandma Donna’s house in Somerset, or maybe at Neneh’s family home in Skåne, southern Sweden. What stays with me is the kinship, intimacy, gentle hours passing, wrapping presents and telling stories. This dish is family: my Neneh, my sisterwoman, my dear, darling friend. Every bite is suffused with the countless steps we’ve taken together over all the years we have known each other. Food IS love.”
Once cooked, cool the cabbage completely and keep covered in the fridge for up to a day. Reheat in a low oven to serve, adding a little extra stock to moisten it if it’s dry.
Save the tougher stalks of the cabbages to use for something else. Andi likes to poach them with cream and thyme, then whizz them to a purée.
To make the brunkål vegan, use oil instead of butter and substitute the chicken stock for a good vegetable one.
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