Harissa-braised Hispi Cabbage with Cannellini Beans and Smoked Chilli

This is one of those recipes that came to me during the night – I’m not even joking. It’s not that I dream about food – unless it’s one of THOSE dreams where I have agreed to cater for a great number of people only to forget to buy the ingredients (that’s a recurring one), it’s just that my culinary imagination seems to be permanently switched on. It’s been worse since we were forced to stop travelling – usually the greatest source of inspiration for me – these days it’s as if my brain is searching in the deepest recesses of my memory for ideas. It was cabbage that I dreamt of earlier this week, a somewhat underrated vegetable that stands equal with cauliflower on my chart of heroic vegetables – bok choi, savoy, cavolo nero and hispi, I love them all. Now that autumn is well and truly here, I am thinking about slow-cooked comfort food. Not the carb-laden classics that we commonly turn to, I’m looking for dishes that are fresh, simple and packed with nutrients. Remembering the slow cooked casseroles of childhood Sundays, I am playing with the concept of braising, a classic technique that delivers maximum flavour with minimal effort – it’s essentially all about simmering ingredients in a heavy lidded pot with a tiny amount of liquid and a few aromatics. In his book, The Vegetarian Option chef Simon Hopkinson provides a recipe for butter beans braised with sage, olive oil and dried chilli. It’s one of my favourites and, perhaps subconsciously, this one is a tribute to him. The result is a dish of unbelievably silky, sweet and almost nutty deliciousness which I served with my Shuk Ha’Carmel green herb falafels but it would work wonderfully with braised sausages. There was also a bowl of freshly made labneh on the side through which I stirred a small amount of green harissa and herby roast tomatoes.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large plum tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp rose harissa
2 cans of cannellini beans
1 hispi cabbage, cut into quarters
120ml Kalamata extra-virgin olive oil
Sprig of fresh sage
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Smoked chilli flakes (optional)

How I make it

Heat an oven to 200C.

Grate the tomatoes and discard the skins. Stir in the rose harissa and set aside.

Place the cabbage quarters in a heavy lidded ovenproof casserole. Pour over the olive oil and 240ml of the reserved cannellini bean liquor and then spoon on the tomato and harissa paste. Season generously, add the sage, cover and place in the oven. Braise for 30 minutes until the cabbage is golden brown and almost cooked through.

Add the cannellini beans to the pot, replace the cover and braise for a further 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and garnish with smoked chilli flakes, or regular chilli flakes.

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