Monday, 6 February 2012

Gorgeous, Glossy Red Cabbage: Soup, Salad and Pleasure

Nature knew what it was doing when it gave red cabbage its gorgeous, glossy colour. These days I cannot seem to return from the supermarket without a piece of this locally grown, beautiful and nutritious vegetable in the bag. The colour alone, both raw and cooked warrants the amount of red cabbage we seem to be consuming in soups and hearty salads on these mild middle eastern winter days. And of course, the deep deep red pigment also reflects a superb nutrition profile- a high concentration of phytonutrients and a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

I have been reading Michael Pollan's book In Defence of Food and what a brilliant read it is! With his unique perspective on food, society and health, Pollan strives to free us from the clutches of 'nutritionism'- the modern trend of breaking every single food down to its individual nutrients. 

We live surrounded by terms like anti-cancer, antioxidants and super foods. There is a lot of pressure on us to get the right amount of nutrients in order to avoid disease. So I will make sure that the broccoli is brought home and the salmon and the flax seeds and numerous other things that I honestly didn't know or care about until a couple of years ago. There will be a lot of trying out new recipes and a lot of getting used to new flavours- a far cry from the traditional diet of rice, curry and chapati that I grew up with. We will try and grow some of our own vegetables to make sure they are organic and fresh. And while for the most part, it's been a positive experience, I found that I was losing interest in shopping for food and cooking, even eating at times. What I was losing was balance. And also, the pleasure one takes in eating food. Pollan's writing has been very liberating for me. When I go shopping now, I don't think about the week's meals strictly in terms of their nutritional content. I am mindful of eating only real food but I let desire, pleasure and memories guide me too. So when I am reaching out for that piece of red cabbage, the anti-cancer benefits are not the first thing on my mind- it's the colour and the thought of a warming, pretty soup. We had Red Cabbage Soup a couple of days ago and the purple colour was a big hit with the kids.

The next day, I threw together a salad with the left over cabbage, some rocket leaves, apple slices and walnuts. It was heavenly dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and some sea salt.


Red Cabbage Soup (serves 2)

Red Cabbage 2 cups roughly chopped
Potato 1/2 cup peeled and cubed
Onion 1 medium, sliced
Vegetable stock 2 cups
Walnuts 3 tbsp (optional)
Butter, olive oil or coconut oil 2 tbsp
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter. Saute onion until for a couple of minutes. Throw in cabbage and potatoes and stir well. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer until potatoes are soft. Let cool for a bit and blend in a blender or using a hand held. Top with walnuts and  serve warm with crushed black pepper and sea salt.

Red Cabbage, Apple and Rocket Salad (serves 2)

Red Cabbage 2 cups, thinly sliced
Rocket leaves 1/2 cup
Red Apple 1 thinly sliced sliced
Walnuts 4 tbsp


1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt
dash of lemon (optional)

Mix ingredients thoroughly and drizzle on salad.

Eat well but don't be too hard on yourself!


  1. I don't like the taste of cabbage very much, but had to comment to say those colours are amazing. Absolutely popping from the screen!

  2. when I saw the soup, I thought it was lavender soup (when Arva, Mishti and Devina suddenly came to mind). But the photos are LOVELY as always! You gals really have an eye for photography and styling! Me must learn from the masters!

  3. I too go for the color when shopping for produce.Already have few red cabbages to be used.Salad looks lovely!

  4. How beautiful. I'm a big fan of Michael Pollan - as we've become more scientific about food we've ditched common sense and balance. Marketing has also skewed our view of the role of certain foods (why is a blueberry a 'superfood' rather than a blackcurrant? Because they are much easier to transport!)

  5. Thanks ladies...Didi, whats the story about lavender soup and the ladies?:)

  6. We were talking about how lavender in food makes you feel like you're eating soap / body wash. Hahaha!

  7. What beautiful pictures Shumaila! Love red cabbages and your salad is calling my name right now!! Thank you I just figured out my lunch :))

  8. nice opinion.. thanks for sharing....

  9. Hi shumaila
    Just stumbled upon your blog. I got hooked to gardening last year and am now in the process launching germination kits and self watering pots . I'd love you to have a look and let me know what you think. If you can make it there's a community bazaar on Saturday 26 march at the community center in Dubai silicon oasis. I'll be showcasing the products there.

  10. Oops it's 24th march : )

  11. Hi nano-gardens, sorry i missed your comment and the event! Hope it went really well. I was wondering if you'd like to contribute to the blog about your gardening, products etc.? Let me know what you think. My email is shum dot ahmed at gmail

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