Olia Hercules’ recipes for Christmas vegetables

  Reading time 5 minutes

Caramelised cabbage stuffed with mushrooms, onions and chestnuts

This is an impressive vegetarian centrepiece inspired by a recipe in an old book called Moldovan Cuisine, in which the cabbage is braised in stock. I prefer steaming cabbages, especially if using the tender sweetheart (AKA pointed) variety. If your cabbage is very big, you may need to steam it for a little longer than the recipe states: use your instinct here. The filling can be made in advance and frozen, then thawed before being stuffed into the cabbage.

Prep 20 minCook 50 minServes 4

200g chestnut mushrooms1 medium pointed cabbage (about 800g)40g butter or oil 2 banana shallots, finely chopped100g shiitake mushrooms50g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped (or toasted pine nuts or walnuts)For the sauce1 small garlic clove, peeled100ml creme fraicheSalt and pepperA pinch of paprika – I particularly like the smoked stuff

Grate the mushrooms on the rough side of a box grater (this is much easier than chopping them finely). Cut the top 5cm off the sweetheart cabbage and shred it thinly. (If you are using a regular white cabbage, and it is on the large side, cut it in half across the equator – one half will feed four; if yours is a larger party, use both halves and double the filling quantities.)

For the sauce, finely grate the garlic into a bowl, then add the creme fraiche, some salt, pepper and a sprinkle of paprika.

Melt the butter or oil over a medium-low heat, add the shallots and a generous pinch of salt, and cook, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes, until soft and lightly golden.

Add the mushrooms and shredded cabbage, and cook for another five to 10 minutes. Season generously, then add the chestnuts (or nuts). The filling should be very well seasoned.

Trim the stalk off the bottom of the cabbage so that it can stand up stably, but do not take off so much that the layers fall apart. Place the cabbage upright in a steamer (if your steamer is not big enough to accommodate it, use a large colander over a pot of boiling water and cover with a lid) and steam for about 15 minutes (or a little longer if your cabbage is large and its leaves are tightly closed together); you need the cabbage to soften enough to make it easy to stuff.

Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/465F/gas 9. Gently prise the leaves open and generously stuff the filling in between them. Brush the outer leaves and any exposed ones with a little oil, then roast for five minutes. It should be charred and delicious-looking; if you feel it needs more colour, give it another five minutes.

Present whole at the table, then cut it into wedges and serve with the garlicky creme fraiche alongside.

Brussels sprouts in miso butter and honey glaze

These are inspired by Vichy-style carrots, which are glazed in honeyed butter. If you happen to have any leftovers, they’d make for a very flavourful bubble and squeak.

Prep 10 minCook 15 minServes 4-6 (as a side)

500g sprouts40g butter1 tbsp miso paste1 tbsp honey2 sprigs fresh thymeA pinch of sea saltIf the sprouts are small, leave them be, but cut larger ones in half – I prefer using cut sprouts here, because the miso butter clings to the cut sides more easily.

Put the sprouts and the butter in a wide 20cm frying pan and set over a medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add four tablespoons of water, cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave to cook on a medium-low heat for five minutes.

Remove the lid, add the miso, honey and thyme, and cook for another five minutes, or until you are happy with their softness – my preference is for sprouts that are easy to cut with a regular butter knife – but use your judgment. If at any point the miso and honey look as if they’re going to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a splash of water and deglaze the pan.

When the sprouts are ready, serve immediately or leave them in the pan, ready to reheat quickly later.

Fiona Beckett’s drinks match

Under £10Chateau Guiot Costières de Nîmes 2019 £9.99 (or £7.99 on “mix six”) Majestic, 13.5%. Warm, generous Côtes du Rhône-like red that would go beautifully with the cabbage – it’s not certified organic, but does take a minimal intervention approach.

Over £10Monsant Comunica La Pua Blanco Celler Comunica 2019 £17.37 Les Caves de Pyrène, £19 The Good Wine Shop, 13.5%. Orange wine would be a terrific pairing with the stuffed cabbage, and this deeply coloured Spanish white garnacha is a great example.

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