Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Stir-braised cabbage with pancetta and nigella seeds

My favourite cooked cabbage recipes come from two of my favourite celebrity chefs. I absolutely love Jamie Oliver's braised white cabbage with bacon and thyme; and Nigella Lawson's stir-braised Savoy cabbage with nigella seeds. When the time comes to cook cabbage, I am always torn deciding which recipe to use. I then came up with a recipe of my own that combines the best of both recipes. It took me a couple of times to get the flavours right and ensuring all the ingredients complement each other and I think I worked it out.

In his recipe, Jamie uses smoked streaky bacon and fresh thyme to flavour his braised cabbage. But I think the addition of butter and extra virgin olive oil at the end of the cooking is what makes the dish exceptionally delicious! In my recipe, I want to incorporate the bacon; and though I don't always have streaky bacon in my fridge, I always have pancetta. It's Italian bacon really, that is cured in salt and spices like fennel, pepper and garlic. I was once told that pancetta has a long shelf-life (a few months) but I have never proven this because no slab of pancetta ever last longer than a week in my house. Also, the butter is a must, full stop.

Nigella's braised cabbage recipe has a lovely Asian flavours with soy sauce, sesame oil and nigella seeds. Nigella seeds if you don't know or never seen them, they look like black sesame seeds but not in any way related. They have earthier, nuttier scents and they are widely used in Indian cooking, often known as kalonji seeds. I keep the nigella seeds in my recipe, and not just because I love the name (I do love the name. Surprise, surprise) but also because they go very nicely with the thyme. I ditched the soy sauce and the toasted sesame oil is optional depending on what I'm serving the dish with. A few dashes of sesame oil can really change the whole flavour of the dish.

Feel free to use either white cabbage or Savoy cabbage here, it doesn't really matter. But whichever cabbage you use, the key is to slice the cabbage nice and fine. I like using my food processor with the slicer attachment to get uniform slices, but a sharp knife will do the job just fine.

This cabbage makes a great side dish, and an accompaniment poached chicken, but I happily eat it simply with plain boiled basmati rice.

Stir-braised Cabbage with Pancetta and Nigella Seeds
Recipe by Me
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
100 gr pancetta, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons nigella seeds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 white/Savoy cabbage, outer leaves discarded and very finely sliced
350 ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 knobs of butter
Toasted sesame oil (optional)

In a pan that comes with a lid, start by heating the garlic infused oil and add the pancetta and nigella seeds, and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the finely sliced cabbage, dried thyme and the stock. Put the lid on and let boil furiously for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to simmer and continue cooking until the cabbage is a pleasure to eat, I reckon a further 5 minutes. Top up the stock if you feel it's reducing too much.

Add the butter, few drops of sesame oil, if using and season to taste. Serve immediately.

Last Sunday, I served the cabbage with slow roast pork belly and it was delish. If you plan to do the same, I suggest reducing the amount of stock, otherwise it'll be too wet and the pork belly will be less pleasant to eat.

This is also my entry for the cabbage recipe competition, hosted by If you could spare a little of your time, please vote for me, here. Thank you :)


  1. OMG Michael-I love your cabbage dish, especially with the yummy pancetta. Somehow I feel I'm one of the few cabbage lovers, but to me I have so many different ways of making it, and this is one keeper recipe!

  2. Michael, this really sounds delicious. We are cabbage lovers and this dish would be very popular at my table. I hope you have a wonderful evening. Blessings...Mary

  3. I'm glad to see someone else who loves cabbage the way I do! Your creation sounds super delicious! I'm off to vote for you - good luck.

  4. A brilliant combo of both that I definitely will be trying. I've tried Nigella's but I love the addition of the pancetta.

  5. I've never heard of nigella seeds and probably have always thought they were black sesame seeds! Thanks for enlightening me.
    This recipe looks delicious, Michael!

  6. Ok, that's it, I hope you don't mind, but I'm coming to live with you!! I love braised cabbage...Chris despises it!! Oh the crosses we must bare :) LOL Your combination of the two recipes sounds wonderful, Michael. I will definitely have to try this on a night when Chris isn't around!
    Good luck on the contest... I just voted for you!!

  7. I so love cabbage and your recipe is fantastic, and it looks amazing. Beautiful dish :)
    I hope you have a fantastic weekend...

  8. Gorgeous cabbage michael. The nigella seeds make an interesting change from my usual pairing of caraway. Both highly under-esteemed spices! cheers, Angela

  9. Another wonderful meal. Cabbage with nigella seeds.... lovely :)