Nick Cullen serves up a warming winter treat

OF all the winter veggies, I think cabbage has got to be one of the most under-rated and un-loved of the lot. I suspect this is partly due to the days of bad school dinners and Granny’s boiled-up greens which were pushed around the plate before being consigned to the bin. However, when cooked properly, cabbage is a wonderful ingredient and I use it in several of my restaurant dishes.

One of my best loved cabbage dishes is the classic Irish Colcannon which is always a big hit in my family during the winter months. Or cabbage, cooked lightly and finished with a little butter and seasoning, is a delicious accompaniment to a wide variety of main meals.

There are several types of cabbage but savoy is one of the tastiest seasonal varieties. With its dark green, crinkly leaves and its robust flavour, it’s a great addition to any winter meal.

My winter chicken stew goes beautifully with savoy cabbage and is a really tasty, nutritious dish that’s great for all the family. I usually buy a whole chicken and cut it up into several pieces - I like to have a variety of cuts of meat in the dish. You’ll also find this to be more economical and less wasteful (and it’s a good skill to master too). If you don’t feel confident doing this then you can buy a selection of cuts from your butcher or supermarket.

One essential thing to note when cooking the cabbage is that it’s important not to use more water than required. Don’t be tempted to fill the pan with water or completely cover the cabbage. The cabbage should be allowed to steam rather than boil and only needs to be cooked for a few minutes.

Winter Chicken Stew with Savoy Cabbage

(serves 4-5)

1 whole chicken cut into 10 pieces OR a selection of chicken pieces (ideally 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breasts cut in half, 2 wings), skin on but bones removed.

1 large onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced into big chunks

2 sticks of celery, cut into big chunks

2 bay leaves

4 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 pint chicken stock

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 whole savoy cabbage

1 pint water

Preheat the oven to 200c/400F/Gas 6

Heat a large deep sauté pan, casserole dish or similar pan on the hob over a high heat and add two tbsp of oil.

Cook the chicken pieces for a few minutes until browned on one side, adding the larger pieces of meat to the pan first and finishing with the wings (which won’t take as long). Turn the chicken over and add the vegetables and garlic. Season to taste and cook for a few minutes until both the meat and vegetables have browned on all sides.

Next, add the vinegar followed by the stock and gently bring to the boil. Add the bay leaves and place everything into the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pull the outer leaves off the cabbage and remove the stalk. Cut in half down the centre, remove the inner stalk and slice the cabbage into strips of about 1½cm thick. Boil a pint of water in the kettle and place a large pan on a high heat ready to cook the cabbage.

Put the cabbage into the dry, hot pan then pour in the boiling water. Season to taste and cook the cabbage for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow even cooking.

Carefully remove the chicken from the oven. Check it’s cooked all the way through by cutting into the thickest part of the meat to ensure the juices run clear and the meat is white.

Divide between serving dishes and serve with a spoonful of cabbage.