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Around this time of year you often see a lot of recipes for some kind of red cabbage dish – either braised or baked. Indeed, just yesterday in The Guardian there was an article about it, comparing different recipes and ingredients. People seem to think that its only available or welcome around Christmas. Not so in my house! I love it shredded raw in the summer with a mustard vinaigrette (and have been known to demolish an entire head of cabbage this way …). Any time one passes into my house (which is more regularly than you may initially think) its always a toss-up between raw salad and braising.

Plus it kind of looks like brains …

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I think when my mother used to make it, it was of the Delia Smith variety – casseroled for two hours – but then she found that cooking it on the hob was much quicker, and this is the method that I use.

The recipe is fairly basic: shredded red cabbage, sliced onion (red or white works fine), large-diced apple (I have used cooking and dessert varieties at different times and I can’t say that I have an over-arching favourite!) and red-wine vinegar (although balsamic vinegar would be a good alternative) are stewed with a little water, some sugar, garlic and spices. I use cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.

The dish is ready when the cabbage is soft and the flavours mellowed together, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. It can be kept warm, reheated or even frozen with no problem (in fact, I will cook a whole head of cabbage and always freeze the leftovers).

To make it more festive bejewel with pomegranate seeds.

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The other part of tonight’s dinner was Nigella’s Gnocchi Gratin, as featured in her Nigellissima book. I love gnocchi boiled. I love gnocchi fried (instant roast potatotes – also a Nigella-ism!). And now I love gnocchi gratined (is that a word?).

Supremely simple. It takes longer for the oven to heat up than it does to make it or cook it …

The amounts below are as per the recipe in the book and allege to serve 6. I halved the recipe as it was the two of us and we managed with not too much trouble to scoff the lot.

Ingredients

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 60ml full-fat milk
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • Ground pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 2 x 400g packets of gnocchi (I bought my gnocchi in Waitrose – get me – and the bag was 500g – not a problem at all!)
  • 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs

Method

Preheat oven to 200C and put on a saucepan of salted water to boil.

Cook gnocchi in boiling water for no more than 3 minutes – its done when it floats to the top! Drain and leave.

Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and mascarpone in a flat oven-proof dish. Put in the heated oven to warm. Once it starts bubbling slightly, remove.

Whisk in approximately two thirds of the parmesan, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add the gnocchi to the dish and gently coat in the sauce. Top with remaining parmesan and the breadcrumbs (I actually didn’t bother with the breadcrumbs as I had been rather liberal with my grating of the cheese!) and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Nigella says to leave to cool for 5-10 minutes, but this was really covered by dishing everything up and sitting down to eat.

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As you can see from the picture, we served it up with roasted chicken quarters. These were simply anointed with olive oil, salt and pepper before being thrown into the oven for just over 30 minutes. You can roast chicken however you like. Sometimes I dot with thyme sprigs, quarters of lemon, paprika … whatever you have to hand!

And that was a rather lovely ‘winter warmer’ that would equally suit a summer evening!

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