Of cabbages and cookbooks

The other day I was given a magnificent, whole red cabbage. After I admired its beauty for a few days, I had to decide what to do with it.

Red cabbage--beautiful inside and out.

Although I love red cabbage raw in a salad or steamed, I decided there was no choice but to make my never-fail red cabbage side dish. It’s from one of my cherished vintage (sounds so much better than old!) cookbooks Irish Countryhouse Cooking by Rosie Tinne, first published by Gill and Macmillan Ltd in 1974.

One of my favorite vintage cookbooks

The book comprises recipes from grand Irish country houses and country house hotels of the time and the list of contributors have titles like Countess, Viscountess, Lady, and The Hon. Each recipe has the name of the house at the top and the signature of the contributor below.

My favorite and utterly delicious recipe for Red Cabbage comes from a page in the book headed The Glebe, Leixlip, County Kildare. A Google search doesn’t show a match, so I don’t know if the house still exists. But the recipe lives on. Here, I share it with you (I’ve put metric equivalents in italics).

My very favorite red cabbage recipe


1 small red cabbage (about 2 lb) (about 1kg)

1 large onion—sliced

2oz butter (about 60g)

1 oz flour (about 30g)

2 apples—peeled, cored and cut in chunks

3 tablespoons white or wine vinegar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

3-4 cloves

3-4 bay leaves

salt to taste

Wash and shred cabbage. Heat butter in fairly large saucepan and lightly fry onion. Add flour and cook for a minute or two, but do not brown. Add ½ pint (about 300ml) water, apples, vinegar, sugar, cloves, bay leaves, salt to taste and the cabbage. Simmer, stirring at intervals, until cabbage is tender (about 1½ hours to 2 hours). There should be no liquid to throw away.

I serve this cabbage dish with pork, but it could easily go with steak or even duck. I keep it in a sealed container in the fridge and eat it by the spoonful!

When I Googled Irish Countryside Cooking, there seem to be copies available at various vintage book stores, as well as Amazon.

I lived in Ireland as a child and, though I don’t remember very much, love reading books set in Ireland–and reading my Irish cookbooks.

Let me know if you like the recipe!


Photo of cut red cabbage

© Akarelias | http://www.stockfreeimages.com

Chickie centerfolds

My hens have made their modeling debut!

My little flock of Isa Browns feature in the beautiful new cookbook Belinda Jeffery’s Collected Recipes, published by Penguin Group (Australia) under the Lantern imprint. Here they are across a double page spread. Very photogenic, don’t you agree?

My chickens star on pages 162-163 of Belinda Jeffery's Collected Recipes, photographed by Rodney Weidland

So how did my chickens get their feathers into a cookbook? They were photographed by my friend Rodney Weidland who did all the magnificent photography in this cookbook. You know the term “food porn”? It could have been invented for this recipe photography!

A fabulous cookbook for family meals and entertaining--I love it.

Belinda Jeffery is well known in Australia for her cookbooks, magazine work and TV appearances. Her recipes are sublime—utterly delicious but easy to make. I’m pleased my chickens make an appearance in this wonderful cookbook!

We inherited the original Isa Browns when we bought our farm. Totally ignorant of poultry keeping, we’ve muddled along and learned as we go. Somehow we’ve managed to keep them healthy and happy. They have a nice life in their roomy hen house (known as the Hen Hilton in our valley) and the freedom of a large fenced grassy area. This freedom can come at a cost—one brown girl got taken by a hawk this past weekend. I heard her distressed squawking and ran outside to see her in the clutches of an enormous bird. It flew off with her in its claws but my screaming at it caused it to drop her. Scary stuff. At the time of writing she is okay, though suffering from shock, we hope she will survive.

Some of the girls--photographed by me

Our chickens are more pets than livestock. We keep them just for eggs and when they finally drop off the perch (sometimes literally!) they get buried with ceremonial honors in the garden.

We treasure their beautiful (and delicious) eggs

Lucky my pampered hens don’t know that their photo is used to introduce a section of chicken recipes in the cookbook…

Writing (and shopping) retreat

My friend, author Cathleen Ross, and I had the farmhouse to ourselves for the weekend—peace and quiet to write, write, write. We wrote, we read, and we… I was going to confess we ate the chocolate Easter eggs we bought for our families but maybe I might deny that.

To take a break, we went shopping at some of the not-too-far-away shops and a market that has several floors of antiques, bric-a-bric and gadgets. We had a fire at the farmhouse last year and nearly everything was destroyed by flame or smoke.  What an excuse to scoop up a few replacement bargains!

First up was this gorgeous jug. Who could leave it sitting there with its $5-reduced-from-$20 label? It would have been downright mean to reject it.

And then there was this pre-loved silver-plated spaghetti server. At $7, I felt it would add a touch of luxury to the simple pasta meals we share around the farmhouse table. (Must beg Cathleen to make me some of the awesome spaghetti sauce she learned to make from her Italian father-in-law. It’s truly deserving of a silver server!)

I don’t know what these beautiful candle sticks are made from, some kind of enamel possibly, but I fell in love with them and was happy to pay $16 for the pair. Practical as well as pretty—we often lose power when storms rage through our valley and it’s reassuring to have candles to hand when it suddenly goes dark.

Sweeping the floor is never much fun, but I rather think I’ll enjoy it more with this cheerful $6 dustpan and broom. Those extended handles should make the chore not so backbreaking.

And then there was this print on canvas, my most expensive buy of the day for $18. I love botanical prints and while this certainly isn’t the real deal, that didn’t stop me from taking it home!

We spent a while hunting through shelves and shelves of secondhand paperbacks and Cathleen found a wonderful selection of favorite out-of-print romances.

Then we went home and wrote again. And I came up with some creative explanations for my husband for just why we needed a silver spaghetti server!