Growing up in a migrant family in Australian suburbia in the 1960s had its challenges. We were 'different' you see. For starters, we were relatively poor... my parents had survived the war in Europe and fled Hungary after the Russian uprising in 1956, arriving in Australia with a couple of suitcases and three children. We spoke Hungarian at home and, when speaking in English, my parents had quite marked (but rather delightful) accents. Although a baker made his morning rounds delivering sliced white bread to people's doorsteps, we ate crusty 'Continental' bread which we dipped into a kind of milky Café au lait that mum cooked on the stove every morning.
Our bedding comprised goose down feather doonas and large square pillows that my mother bought from a European door-to-door salesman who had a stash of such bedding in his Kombi van. Meanwhile, our neighbours had (itchy) woollen blankets and fluffy bedspreads. And whilst local families had takeaway chicken and chips from time to time, my mother sometimes cooked delicious meals with cabbage, both red and the green savoy, the smell of which none of my little Aussie 'friends' seemed to like... they would even wrinkle their noses in disgust!
Call me unfortunate if you wish, but I have always loved cabbage, especially the braised red cabbage with apple and cloves and the stuffed cabbage rolls that my mother made. Cabbage has both good and bad points, I suppose. Food historian and poet, Eric Rolls, reminds us in A Celebration of Food and Wine that 'cabbage has to overcome memories of the strange, powerful, sulphurous smell as it cooked too long to be served... ' but then he points out that 'the ancient Egyptians raised altars to red cabbage and made it the first dish at dinners' ... and rightfully so, methinks.
And just as feather doonas are the trendiest form of bedding nowadays, crusty 'Continental' bread is très chic, and braised red cabbage features on the menus of many fine restaurants across Australia. So I'm sharing with you here my mother's recipe for braised red cabbage with apples. But first, an old photograph I found tucked away in a shoebox just recently... my parents, my sister and I at the green Laminex and chrome table in our humble but happy home, circa 1961 or so. One of my two older brothers would have taken the shot.
BRAISED RED CABBAGE WITH APPLE - MY MOTHER'S RECIPE
1/2 head of red cabbage, sliced into shreds
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 green apples, peeled and thinly sliced
Heat the oil and quickly sauté the cabbage and onion until they soften - do not brown. Add the salt, sugar, cloves, bay leaves, vinegar and apples. Cover, lower the heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. If needed, sprinkle a little water over the cabbage to prevent catching, or use a simmer mat. This recipe makes four hearty serves and sits beautifully with creamy mashed potatoes and pork chops, or schnitzel.
Cabbage can be seen as a beautiful thing...
The process in pictures...
Párolt vörös káposzta, nagyon finom!
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Tell me, have you ever tried braised red cabbage in this way? And was your family seen as being 'different' in any way?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.