Cabbage, fennel and flecks of golden saffron
The inspiration for this dish comes from an anonymous person who wrote the Liber de Coquina, ricette di cultura medievale in the 14th century – the recipe was entitled cavolo bianco, finocchio e cipolle con zafferano.
It looks spectacular with the flaming orange dye of the golden saffron oozing out over its neighbouring ingredients as if in a watercolour.
You can make this ahead of time, and reheat in the oven.
It goes particularly well with a beef, ale and Toulouse sausage pie.
Recipe for cabbage, fennel and flecks of golden saffron
For about six
- 500g/1 lb 2 oz white cabbage (about half a cabbage)
- 1 small onion
- 1 generous-sized bulb of fennel
- 120 ml/½ cup dry vermouth (I use Noilly Prat)
- A knob of butter
- 1 tsp smoked salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp strands of saffron – bit difficult to measure, take a good pinch between thumb and forefinger
- Olive oil for frying
- 2 tbsps walnut oil
- Warm the oil gently in a large frying pan.
- Peel the onion and slice it into crescent shapes. Fry for five minutes or so – until it starts to caramelise.
- Add three tablespoons of water, and braise the onions for another ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil a full kettle.
- Cut the fennel bulb into four (discarding any exterior bits that look the worse for wear, but retaining any frothy greenery).
- Cut the cabbage into wedges which are about the same size as the fennel quarters.
- Pour the contents of the just boiled kettle into a large saucepan, add handful of salt (approx. 3 teaspoons) and boil for up to ten minutes – until they are just becoming soft.
- Fish the fennel and cabbage out using a slotted spoon and add to the onion in the frying pan.
- Add the vermouth and continue to cook for about ten minutes, until the alcohol has evaporated.
- Add 180ml/¾cup of the cooking water, a knob of butter and the saffron. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for another quarter of an hour.
- Serve with the walnut oil drizzled over, and the chopped fennel greenery strewn artistically over.