As far as British BBQ culture is concerned, grilled meats generally take centre stage (although often cooked terribly). A huge number of fruits and vegetables work particularly well on the BBQ, however, as has been demonstrated by recent trends, with grilled vegetables having become a staple in so many restaurants, competing with low and slow grilled meats. Pineapples, bananas (ideally wrapped in foil and doused with a generous dash of rum), and stone fruits provide a delicious alternative to burnt sausages and undercooked chicken drumsticks, while cauliflower and corn on the cob take particularly well to being grilled over charcoal, wood. Hispi cabbage is another unexpected BBQ hero, drizzled with a butter-based sauce spiked with anchovies, shallot, lemon juice, and a suggestion of chilli.
Also known as sweetheart or pointed cabbage, Hispi cabbage takes the popular ‘sweetheart’ moniker from the French word for cabbage (chou), also used as a pet name for sweetheart. The variant of white cabbage is also slightly sweet, more so than ordinary cabbage, and takes less time to cook. Tight, green, and leafy, Hispi cabbage has a softer texture than green cabbage and also contains plenty of vitamin C. In addition to being low in calories and fat (before its dressed with butter, at least), Hispi cabbage is also one of the most easily digestible types of cabbage.
At the less expensive end of the scale, one Hispi cabbage can generously feed two-to-four people as a side, taking fewer than 15 minutes to cook on a BBQ or in a hot (ideally cast-iron) pan. When buying Hispi cabbage, it’s important to look for bright leaves and avoid wilting cabbages. The central stalk of each cabbage’s core can be fairly tough when cooked quickly, so benefits from being removed with a V-shaped cut, but it’s crucial to avoid removing too much of the core as the leaves will separate.
Charring Hispi cabbage is also best executed with patience. Although the overall cooking time is fairly quick, the char lines will take longer to form if the cabbage is moved too often. I’d recommend brushing the raw cabbage with a cooking oil of your choice, seasoning, and cooking each side over a high heat for 4-5 minutes, undisturbed. If cooking indoors, in a pan, place something heavy on the cabbages to help them colour more evenly – a clean, heavy-based saucepan will work well. The accompanying sauce should also be made just before cooking, although it can be gently reheated while the cabbages rest for a few minutes. In an ideal world, I’d also suggest asking somebody to help with reheating the sauce while you tend the BBQ.
- 1 large Hispi/sweetheart cabbage
- 200 g unsalted butter diced
- 4-6 anchovy fillets drained and roughly chopped
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- Chilli flakes to taste
- 1 lemon juice only
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cooking oil
- To prepare the cabbage, wash and cut the cabbage into four equal-sized wedges and remove the outer layer of leaves if wilted. Make a V-shaped cut in the bottom of the core on each wedge, but avoid removing too much as it will make the cabbage fall apart while cooking.
- To make the accompanying sauce, slowly melt the butter in a small saucepan then add a drizzle of oil to prevent the butter from burning. Increase the heat and add the chopped anchovies, shallot, and a generous pinch of chilli flakes to the pan. Cook for one minute or so, until sizzling, then season with salt and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Set aside and reheat later, if need be.
- Drizzle the cabbage wedges all over with a little cooking oil and season with salt and pepper.
- If cooking on a BBQ, place the cabbage wedges on the BBQ, flat-side down, over high heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, resisting the temptation to keep moving them around. Once the two flat sides are generously charred and the cabbage wedges are fairly soft, remove from the BBQ and rest for a few minutes while reheating the sauce (if need be).
- If cooking in a pan, heat a large, heavy-bottomed griddle pan or frying pan (ideally cast-iron) until screaming hot. Place the cabbage wedges in the pan, flat-side down, and cook over a high heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, resisting the temptation to keep moving them around. You can also place something heavy, such as a clean saucepan, on top of the cabbage wedges while cooking to weigh them down and char more evenly. Once the two flat sides are generously charred and the cabbage wedges are fairly soft, remove from the pan and rest for a few minutes while reheating the sauce (if need be).
- Drizzle each cabbage wedge with a generous amount of the hot butter and eat while hot.