Although me and Budhan-da do most of the cooking in our house, my husband is a great cook too. His speciality is cabbage. It maybe seems odd to have perfected such an ordinary vegetable, but I love cabbage and he is the king-of-cabbage, so that makes us a great team. Even his mother admits that she cannot cook cabbage like him.
Some form of cabbage is nowadays grown almost everywhere and most cultures have one or the other typical cabbage dish. So did the Bengalis and created bandhakopir torkari, a lightly spiced cabbage recipe, with a perfect balance of sweet & salty, rounded off with a dollop of ghee.
The ghee gives the cabbage a silken mouth feel and makes the umami rich vegetable even more savoury. It really is the ingredient which elevates it to another level.
Indian ghee shouldn’t be mistaken with plain clarified butter because it can have great depth of flavour from nutty undertones to a cheesy funk. For making Indian ghee the butter is cooked till the milk solids caramelize and the funkiness comes from fermenting the milk/cream before churning the butter. It can be made from cow, buffalo or yak milk and there are regional varieties too. My parents-in-law in West Bengal mostly use a brownish ghee, which gets cooked for hours and is so strongly caramelized and intense, that you only need a tiny amount to flavour a dish.
This long talk about ghee might maybe feel boring and not relevant. But when I was growing up with the standard german butter I always thought this one taste is how butter tastes. Discovering and understanding the many possible flavour nuances of ghee and butter in India, where the food industry is not yet that highly industrialized, was a real eye opener for me and worth to talk about.
This cabbage is one of the best dishes to understand the magic of ghee. The recipe is based on my husbands although I didn’t manage sticking to it completely and used it as a filling for a galette. This is actually totally unnecessary (if you want to go true Bengali style, just add some potatoes and eat the cabbage with rice), but on the other side it works fantastically well, so why not?
Ghee Cabbage Galette
For the pastry dough
- 160 grams all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 110 grams cold butter, cut into pieces
- 60 grams yogurt
- 10 ml lemon juice
- 60 ml ice water
- 1 egg for glazing
For the cabagge
- 750 gram white cabagge, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon oil (I use mustard oil)
- 1 piece cinammon bark (cassia)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 cardamom pods, seeds only
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste (or grated ginger)
- 1 tomato, grated
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon salt (per taste)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (per taste)
- 1 tablespoon ghee
You will also need a pan with a lid
Start with preparing the pastry dough. Mix the flour with salt in one bowl and the yogurt, lemon juice and water in another bowl. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the flour and rub them in with your fingers till you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Take care to not overwork the dough, there should still be some bigger, pea size butter pieces. With a spoon mix in the water/yogurt mixture till a large lump forms. Wrap in plastic and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Prepare the cabbage. Heat the oil over medium heat and once it’s hot add the cinnamon, cumin and cardamon seeds (in this order). Fry the spices till they release their essential oil and smell nicely. Add the ginger and grated tomato and fry till the raw smell disappears. Add the turmeric powder and finely cut cabbage. Stir and fry for a minute or so till everything is nicely mixed up. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with the lid and let the cabbage steam in its own juices till it’s soft (ca. 10 min). Once the cabbage is done season with garam masala, salt and sugar. At last add the ghee and stir it through.
Let it cool down. Once it’s cool, separate the egg and mix the egg white into the cabbage. Mix the egg yolk with a bit of water and keep aside for glazing the galette later.
Assemble the galette. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Flour your working surface and roll the dough into a 30 cm round. Transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet. Distribute the cabbage in the middle of the dough, leaving a 5 cm edge. Fold over the edge, pleating where it’s necessary to make it fit. Glaze with the egg yolk.
Bake for 30 - 40 minutes till golden brown. If the cabbage turns too dark, cover it with a piece of tinfoil. Take out of the oven, let it cool a few minutes and cut into wedges. It also tastes nice cold.