Simple red cabbage salad

Delicious Turkish style red cabbage salad that's perfect with kebabs, stews and meat.
Red cabbage salad on white plate, top down

Simple red cabbage salad

Delicious Turkish style red cabbage salad that's perfect with kebabs, stews and meat.
Red cabbage salad on white plate, top down

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

While you won’t find kebabs and various salads stuffed in pitas, you’ll often find a simple, beautifully coloured red cabbage salad served alongside your (plated) kebab in Turkey – and many other foods besides. Red cabbage is perfect for a sturdy and tasty winter salad, perfect with most meats and stews.

Red cabbage is one of the most beautiful vegetables I know. The ones we buy have already been trimmed of much of of their beauty, the outer leaves being deemed to coarse for consumption. But as soon as you slice through it, the most wonderful patterns of purple, blue and white appear.

Red cabbage salad on white plate, top down

The colour of red cabbage apparently depends on the acidity of the environment in which it grew. A more acidic soil yields a red-ish colour, a neutral soil a more purple hue. Even after preparation, it keeps responding to this. So don’t forget the lemon juice or vinegar for a vibrantly colourful result.

Aside from its beauty, red cabbage is wonderful to eat. It is often cooked until soft – in Norway Christmas isn’t Christmas without it.

But, like the Turks, I find it’s even better when used as a base for a crunchy salad.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
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The key to a delicious Turkish red cabbage salad

The key to cabbage based salads is to slice the cabbage very thinly – as thinly as you possibly can. If the slices are too thick, it will be tough to eat and the bitter flavours are more apparent, even dominating. Use a mandolin if you like; I prefer to use my sharpest knife.

Red cabbage salad on white plate, top down

When sliced, don’t skip the crucial second step: Throw in some salt and give the cabbage a nice massage. This softens the brassica (your jaws will thank you) and takes out some of the natural bitterness.

This recipe is my go-to red cabbage side salad. It goes with virtually any meal. It works particularly well with fried meat, and of course with anything you choose to stuff your pita bread with.

The salad on the picture has only seen a soft massage and short rest. For a more deep purple result like you often see in Turkey, massage longer and leave it to steep in salt for a while longer.

If you’re anything like me, you keep getting surprised at how much salad a tiny bit of cabbage makes. Don’t worry if you make too much – this salad keeps well for a couple of days in a tight container in the fridge.

Serves 4-6 portions as a side dish.

Red cabbage salad on white plate, top down

Simple red cabbage salad

Yield: 4-6 portions

Delicious Turkish style red cabbage salad that's perfect with kebabs, stews and meat.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium red cabbage, core discarded, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or another vinegar you like)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 g leaves of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Add 2 tsp salt to the cabbage and massage well until beginning to soften, a few minutes. Set aside for 30 minutes, or longer if you can.
  2. Rinse, drain and dry the cabbage. Add the vinegar and olive oil and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add the parsley. Serve immediately.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

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