The cabbage. An unloved, perhaps uninspiring vegetable to some, a saviour in winter for the allotment keeper! Cabbages are generally cool-weather veg with winter varieties that can grow slowly but surely through the frosts. There are the deep green crinkly varieties that fill you with the sense that you’re being good to yourself by eating them, and there are those that are more delicate and take on the flavours around them. It’s the latter I have selected for this recipe.
A mild, white cabbage is fantastic grilled slowly to get a lovely char on the outside while cooking the inside to be tender, yet keeping some crunch and texture. This combination of cabbage, smoky hot chestnuts and mouth-puckering pickled apple has everything you need to wake up all of your senses during this cold weather.
I love using seasonal sweet chestnuts for their nutty sweetness in savoury and dessert recipes alike. This recipe pairs them with hot and smoky flavours inspired by salsa macha, a Mexican condiment made with chilli, garlic and nuts. Roasting the chestnuts gives the best results, and over a fire is even better for added smokiness which works beautifully in this savoury recipe. Just remember to score a cross in their skins so they don’t explode! If roasting is more effort than you’re looking to put in, you can of course use pre-prepared chestnuts instead.
Since first making these smoky chilli chestnuts, I’ve been trying to think of how many things I can drizzle them on for a spicy hit. They really are so versatile and could work well with any of the following:
- On top of parsnip soup
- Stirred into festive Brussels sprouts
- To top a pumpkin salad with crumbled feta
- Drizzled over roast potatoes
- To perk up a fried egg brunch
- Or simply as a dip for crisps or flatbreads
The combination of the chestnuts with the pickled apples is dreamy and together I could eat it by the spoonful. It certainly blows any cobwebs away!
Grilled Cabbage with Smoky Chilli Chestnuts and Pickled Apple Recipe
For the cabbage:
- 2 cabbage “steaks”
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- Pinch salt
For the smoky chilli chestnuts:
- 100ml rapeseed oil
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/2 small onion
- Generous pinch salt
- 2 tsp ancho chilli flakes
- 2 tsp chipotle chilli flakes (or less if you prefer a milder spice level)
- 100g sweet chestnuts, cooked and shelled
For the pickled apple:
- 1 Fresh apple
- 100ml apple juice
- 100ml cider vinegar
- Pinch salt
- Pickle the apples first. Dice or slice thinly so that there’s a good surface area for the pickling liquid. Heat the apple juice with the cider vinegar until hot and not quite boiling. Pour the liquid over the apples in a heatproof bowl and leave to cool.
- Slowly caramelise the onion and garlic in the oil so they soften, taking care not to burn them. In fact you want to cook them as slowly as possible, almost like a confit. Add the chillies and bring up to a higher temperature for a short time to bring out all the flavours, but not so that the chillies burn. Add the chopped chestnuts and continue to cook and stir until everything is hot and well combined. Set aside until serving.
- Brush some rapeseed oil onto your cabbage and grill on both sides in a griddle pan over a medium heat for a few minutes on each side until tender and nicely charred.
- Serve the cabbage topped with the chilli chestnuts, a spoonful of pickled apples and a dollop of sour cream.
I really hope you give this recipe a try – it’s seriously delicious and a great winter warmer. Let me know if you have a go in the comments below or tag me on Instagram @plotandlane where I love to re-share your creations!
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