Off the boil: Bill Granger cooks with cabbage

Stick cabbage in a pan of boiling water and all you'll get is the smell of old socks. But shred it, braise it or poach it – now, that'll hit the spot, says our chef.

Cabbage has had a bad press for as long as I can remember. It's no surprise, really. I can think of few things worse than the smell of boiling cabbage – it's got to be up there with an old man's socks. And why boil it to death, only so that it can become brown and slimy? I'll never understand that. Nothing, no matter how delicious, could survive the hideous treatment households have given the poor cabbage.

Yet, like many things once unfashionable, cabbage is seeing something of a revival. Cavolo nero, Savoy and other "exotic" varieties can now be bought in most supermarkets and, when cooked properly, they can be truly delicious. I love it shredded raw into a 'slaw, stir-fried with oil and garlic so that it still has bite, or braised in a little stock until all soft and full of flavour. Or I'll poach large chunks of it in a tasty broth until just tender, as in the ham hock broth here. Anything but boiling it!

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com

Ham hock and savoy cabbage broth

This is my 21st-century version of peasant food. I like to add a little dollop of mustard to the edge of my bowl, then slowly stir it into the broth as I go. Take forks, knives and spoons to the table – you'll need them all.

Serves 4-6

1kg/2lb ham hocks
2 bay leaves
8 white peppercorns
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 carrots, thickly sliced on the diagonal
2 onions, cut into thin wedges
Peeled zest 1 lemon
8 potatoes, peeled and halved
1 small Savoy cabbage, cut into wedges
English mustard, to serve

Soak the ham hocks in a large pan of cold water for a day then drain. Put the ham hocks in a large pan with the bay leaves, peppercorns, celery, carrot, onion wedges and lemon zest. Pour in enough water to cover all of the ingredients then simmer for 2 to 2.5 hours, until meltingly tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ham hocks from the pan. When they are cool enough to handle pull the meat from the bones and set aside.

Lower the potatoes into the pan and simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook until tender and the potatoes are cooked through. Return the ham hock to the broth to heat through. Ladle into dishes and serve with some mustard.

Pizza Bianca with cavolo nero and dolcelatte

I first saw cream being used on pizza at Pizza East in London's Shoreditch and I've been experimenting with double cream and crème fraîche on pizzas ever since – it really works. It's hard to find a good pizza with cavolo nero outside Italy, so this has become one of my favourite winter toppings when making pizza at home.

Serves 4

For the base

300g/10oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

For the topping

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, sliced
250g/8oz cavolo nero leaves, thicker stalks trimmed off
100ml/3½oz vegetable or chicken stock
Knob butter
1 tsp chilli flakes
5 tbsp crème fraîche, room temperature
100g/3½oz dolcelatte, room temperature

Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a bowl, stir to combine. Make a well in the centre then pour in 200ml/7fl oz tepid water and stir to form a soft dough. Tip out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a cloth and set aside for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

To make the topping, heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic and sizzle for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the cavolo nero, toss to coat in the garlic oil. Pour in the stock and cook the cabbage until most of the liquid has evaporated and the leaves have wilted. Toss in the butter and chilli flakes and shake the pan to coat the leaves. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Grease a 20cm x 30cm deep baking tray with oil. Punch any air out of the dough. Transfer to the tray and push into the corners. Spoon over the crème fraîche, then top with cavolo nero and dolcelatte. Drizzle generously with olive oil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until cooked through.

Winter 'slaw with golden breadcrumbs and seeds

Sneaking in a 'slaw recipe here brings a naughty smile to my face. My wife jokes that whenever she asks for an easy side dish I always suggest a 'slaw. What can I say? I love them. This light, mayo-free version goes perfectly with a roast chicken.

Serves 4-6

Juice 1 lemon
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small white cabbage, shredded
250g/8oz celeriac, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
½ onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Handful sultanas
Handful pitted green olives, torn

For the topping

2 tbsp olive oil
75g/3oz fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tsp caraway seeds
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Mix the lemon juice, honey and oil together with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Combine the cabbage, celeriac, onion, sultanas and olives in a large bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss well to combine. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the breadcrumbs and fry until lightly golden. Add the caraway and pumpkin seeds and fry for a further minute. Serve the 'slaw with the crumbs on top.

Food preparation: Rosie Reynolds;

Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes

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