Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mange le cabbage

Cabbage isn't sexy. It's used for terrible sadistic diets. Lent its name to an interesting children's programme in the 80s with very ugly characters. If I called you a cabbage, it wouldn't be a compliment. Even the word is a bit ugly, like it could be an inventive swear word. You cabbage.

It's thoughts like that that make this a bit of an underchampioned vegetable. But things can change - look at broccoli - ten years ago it was an ugly sprouty veg that was often chopped up, boiled to death and served limply with a few token carrots next to your meat. And now? It's a veritable va va voom of vegginess - soupy, quiched, steamed and served with soy, it's everywhere. I predict the same fate for cabbages. You heard it here first.

Moving swiftly on, cabbage was the basis of my very filling and tasty lunch. If this doesn't have you grubbing around the back of the fridge looking for the one you bought at Christmas with a vague intention of making a coleslaw, well, you're a right cabbage. Beware though, it does take patience. Once that caramelizing smell gets into your nostrils, you're going to have a battle on your hands not bashing it all onto a plate and gobbling it right there, but persevere, it's worth it.

Caramelized cabbage and onion with creme fraiche

1 small red cabbage
1/2 savoy cabbage
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tsp sugar
Sprig rosemary
Italian seasoning herbs
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

Chop up the cabbage and onion into medium slices. Put into a pan with the rosemary sprig, Italian herbs, butter and olive oil and place on a low fire. Leave for 40-45 minutes, stirring occassionally to stop from sticking.

When the cabbage and onion are 'lifeless' i.e. very soft, add the balsamic vinegar, Maple syrup and sugar. Stir well. Leave for another 20-25 minutes while stirring until the sauce has reduced to a thick, sticky coating. Take off the fire and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

Cream tea and cocktails in the shire

It's been a while since I've written a post - things have been manic recently. For one, I've moved away from Dubai and am just about to go on a round the world trip, which means one thing. Crumbs and Dirty Dishes is going international! I intend to learn at least one dish in each country I visit and I intend to visit quite a few countries so watch out.

But for now, I'm back in England, well until Monday at least. My god, how I've missed it. Public transport, proper pubs, walking from A to B - it has been quite an experience. But no trip back home is complete without a jaunt down to Oxford. Not only did I spend three amazing years there, I think it's such a beautiful and fun place when the sun is shining. Want to read more? Here's my travel guide to 24 hours in Oxford.

And, perhaps more importantly, it is home to the best cream tea and cocktails this side of, well anywhere. Screw The Ritz with its stalish scones and slightly crusty fingerless sandwiches (not to mention the tacky decor), The Rose could blow it out of the water on a bad day. On a good day, I wont even insult The Rose with a comparison to such an inferior establishment.

Unfortunately, this not being the land where people are paid ridiculously low amounts to slave away all day (yes that's a Panorama reference), the owner of The Rose was taking a hard earned break on her bank holiday and it was closed. Saddening yes but not the end of the world. There's always Browns to back it up.

Luckily, that was open. I know its a chain, but Browns in Oxford must be doing something right. Especially when it comes to the cream tea. Huge scones that are light and moist are served straight up with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam. For two pounds ninety five. Tasty and credit crunch friendly it's indulgence on a budget so all those thrifty types needn't feel at all guilty.

I could barely wait to take a picture before I tucked in. Furthermore, what is it about cream tea that is so conducive to gossip? We'd barely poured our first cup when the tongues were wagging and the juices flowing. No matter that I'd been out the country for the past two years, one hour of cream tea and I was fully updated on all the scurrilous goings on of our group of friends. So good was the chit chat session that the only male party soon made his excuses and left, running away to the land of real ale and pork scratchings as fast as his legs could take him.

Once sated with scones and scandal, we made our way over to Keble to say hello, take advantage of the bizarrely hot weather and lie on the quad whilst spying out the lie of the land.

But no trip to Oxford is complete without an appearance at The Duke of Cambridge, my second home and place of work for many a cute guy over the past five years. Their happy hour certainly makes me happy, especially when paired with their vast and expertly mixed menu. Whats not to like? Bottoms up...