Bacon and buttermilk cabbage

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On the Side A sourcebook of inspiring side dishesBacon and sautéed cabbage is a well-rehearsed and flawless match. The two are often combined with double cream or crème fraîche, but I find it then becomes a heavier, richer side than I personally want. The idea behind this recipe was to add buttermilk for a lighter touch. It’s certainly worth trying, particularly if you’re planning a meal involving things like pan-fried scallops, or white fish such as cod or pollock.

Don’t be tempted to pour the buttermilk into the pan while the cabbage is cooking, as it’ll curdle and turn lumpy. Also, avoid cooking Savoy or indeed any cabbage (you could use spring greens here too) for too long. Once the vivid green colour dulls, so does the flavour.

  • Yield: 4 to 6 Servings


  • 800 g Savoy or green cabbage
  • 200 g smoked dry-cured lardons
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 6 sprigs thyme leaves
  • 200 g cultured buttermilk
  • ½ lemon finely grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper
How to Make It
  1. Quarter the cabbage, cutting from root to tip. Cut out and discard the hard core, then cut each of the wedges in half width ways. (I prefer leaving cabbage leaves relatively large, rather than shredding them.)
  2. Put the lardons in a large heavy-bottomed pan over a medium-high heat. You could use a wok if none of your frying pans look big enough to hold the cabbage just a few layers deep. The fat will render from the lardons as the pan warms, but add a drizzle of oil to help things get started. Fry the lardons for 4–6 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Don’t panic if they stick a little and the base of the pan colours; we’ll release much of that flavour in a second.
  3. Add the cabbage to the pan once the lardons are crisp. Push around for 20 seconds, then make a space and pour in 150 ml water. Again, move the cabbage around. The steam from the water will help it wilt. Add the thyme, stir and leave the cabbage to soften for 2–3 minutes. Stop cooking while most of the leaves are still bright green and retain a little bite. Let it sit for 3 minutes to cool slightly.
  4. Spoon the buttermilk into a large mixing bowl or serving dish. Give it 15–20 grinds of the pepper mill, then transfer the cabbage and bacon to the buttermilk, taking care not to add any excess liquid, and toss well. Sprinkle over the lemon zest and serve immediately.

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