Just because loads of people do something, does not automatically make it a good idea. Take tanning. When I was a teenager, my mates and I all slapped on the old Johnson’s Baby Oil and bared our pink bottoms to the merciless African sun for hours on end. Turns out it wasn’t the best idea. All I can say in my own defence is that this was a while ago, back when nobody had really heard the acronym SPF yet.
Braised red cabbage and apple falls into this category too. People positively ‘platz’ for the stuff. Even that ultimate huggy-bear sweetie pie, Rick Stein, featured it in his delightful French Odyssey TV series where he pared it with duck confit. It seemed such a good idea. Deluded I tell you. Because no matter what wondrous spice you add – cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise or clove – for me cooked cabbage always but always smells like the unfortunate byproduct of an essential bodily function. Mostly it tastes like it too.
This does not mean the concept is totally devoid of merit. I rather like the thought of warming winter spices with red cabbage and apple, just not the execution. So I had a bit of a ‘what if’ moment. What if I finely shred the red cabbage on my mandolin and the apple too? What if I add some walnuts and currants? And what if I dress the lot with a warm maple syrup vinaigrette heady with spice? So I did just that and it worked. Here it is, my recipe for spiced red cabbage and apple. It’s a stunner with pork or duck, and the kind of salad I don’t mind eating when it’s cold out.