Cabbage with Fresh Dill and rendering your bacon fat

First of all you can make this vegetarian, leaving the bacon out will slightly change the flavour but what makes this dish special is the fresh dill.  Dill is a nice enough herb but I find raw fresh dill can be a bully and overpower everything if not balanced, I wasn’t counting on how it mellows when cooked.

It has converted my oldest daughter who’s not a vegetable eater by choice.  I have my Romanian friend to thank for this dish.  She told me of a way she cooks cabbage at home, the dish goes something like this; sautée an onion add a piece of gammon, shredded cabbage and handful of fresh dill and a bit of stock or water and let it cook until the gammon is ready.  I bought the ingredients to make it but ended up making this short version instead because I was after a side dish to accompany  a chicken and wanted to try the combination.

The first time I made this I added a tiny pinch of ajwain seeds.  Ajwain’s oil contains thymol which is also in thyme.  When I chewed a couple of seeds realising how strong they tasted I was worried if adding too much would overpower the dish, there’s a slightly chemically taste to it, and a pinch was enough.  I wanted to change the seeds the second time and made the dish with fennel seeds, it could have been caraway seeds since it’s common with cabbage and maybe it will be next time.

Rendering Your Bacon Fat

This is something I often forget to do when adding bacon to recipes.  It just takes an extra five minutes and it’s five minutes well spent.  Do you do what I do often and add the chopped onions to the oil and then the bacon?  I think it’s because I’m in auto mode when cooking for family meals and add a chopped onion to oil to soften without even thinking.

The problem with adding the onion and bacon in that order is the bacon fat is never going to render, it will just stew and steam away with the moisture coming off the onion.  It’s hard to brown the bacon at all satisfactory if you add the onion first because you don’t want to burn your onion.

The best way is to start with the streaky bacon and letting most of the fat exude and the remaining solid fat and meat to brown up and create the maillard reaction.  The fatty pieces won’t stay crisp but you’re adding to the layers of flavour.

Cabbage with Fresh Dill

If you like a strong taste of dill then hold some back for adding at the end when turning off the heat.
I’ve only put half teaspoon of fennel seeds or caraway but if you want the taste of the seeds to come through, up the quantity to 1 teaspoon.

  • 1 medium size white cabbage, quartered and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-6 rashers of streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh dill, small handful about 15grms
  • salt and pepper
  • seeds of your choice, pinch of ajwain or 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds or caraway seeds – optional
  • vegetable oil to fry the onion if you are not using bacon or if you’re bacon doesn’t exude enough fat to cook the onion.

Add the bacon to your pan and let the fat run out and wait until it starts to turn nicely brown.

Add the onion and soften it, add salt and pepper to taste, add the cabbage and stir well.  Add a tablespoon of water, this will help to stop the cabbage burning before it starts to melt down and stew in its own juice.  Put the lid on and let it cook away for 10 minutes on low heat.

Add the fresh dill, holding some back if you want some fresh dill taste at the end of the dish, stir well, cover and cook for a further 10-15 minutes on low heat.  After this is up to you how long you want to cook the cabbage for.  Eat it now with some bite or continue cooking it until it’s completely soften, about 45 mins in total.

Cook your bacon in a pan.

When it’s nice and brown add the onion.

Add your choice of seed.

Cook until the onion is soft.

Add your sliced cabbage  and one tablespoon of water and stir well.  Put the lid on and let it cook on low heat for ten minutes.

Add the dill and stir.  Put lid back on and cook for further 10-15 mins and check if you want to eat it now or cook it further until it’s completely soft.