Mrs Bailey’s Cabbage Chorchori
Among the odder but more harmless habits of the British in India was the tendency to eat Indian food, but in an English conformation: one main dish, usually with meat in it; one carb, usually rice; and one vegetable side-dish. In other words, the classic meat-and-two-veg of the Home Counties, eaten with no real regard to the very different natures of the food, the climate and the country.
And as in India, so on Mars, to a great extent. A high proportion of the settlers in the Red Raj came there from India, and brought their customs — and their spices — with them. Mrs Bailey learned from them — and from their daughters, naturally — as she learns from everyone who passes anywhere near her kitchens.
Her curry nights may be a little more various than meat-and-two-veg, but that is perhaps still her default; and whether she’s serving an intimate meal for two, just herself and her own special friend, or feeding two hundred ravenous girls and the staff besides, cabbage chorchori is one of her regular fallbacks.
There are as many recipes as there are cooks, naturally, but this one’s hers.
one savoy or other green cabbage (but savoy is her favourite, and mine besides)
1 teaspoon black mustardseeds
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 or 4 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon panch phoron
[Note: panch phoron is a spice mix that you can buy ready-made, but it’s just as easy to mix up your own. Use equal quantities of fennel seeds, fenugreek, black mustardseeds and nigella; shake ’em all up together, and you’re done. They’ll keep for months’n’months, even if this is the only use you have for ’em. Use a tablespoon of each, and keep the mix in a jar out of the sun, and you’re good.]
Quarter the cabbage, remove any withered outside leaves, cut out the core and finely shred the remainder.
Heat a gloop of mustard oil in a large pan for which you have a lid.
Once the oil is hot, add the teaspoon of mustardseeds and put the lid on. When they stop popping, remove the lid and add the ginger, chillies and turmeric, and then the cabbage. Stir it all about for a minute till thoroughly mixed, then put the lid on and turn down the heat.
Cook until the cabbage is soft. adding salt to taste and stirring occasionally.
Once it’s ready, heat another gloop of mustard oil in a small pan, and when it’s hot add the panch phoron. Once the seeds are crackling, pour oil and seeds together over the cabbage, stir in and serve.
You can find a lot more of Mrs Bailey’s favourite recipes — Indian and otherwise — here: