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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.