February Culinary Smackdown: Madras Cabbage with Peas

Friends, welcome to this month's Culinary Smackdown: Battle Cabbage.  I decided I needed to make something special to prove that humble cabbage can be the star of a fantastic meal.  And so I made a dish that Tim and I have both been daydreaming about since we ate it last fall.

You may think that cabbage is simply a cruciferous vegetable only to be paired with vinegar (or cream), but I am going to stomp all over those assumptions and invite you down memory lane with me.  Tim and I ate dinner, pre-dietary restrictions, at New Krishna, our favorite Indian restaurant in Sharonville.  Since we dined in, we opted for the buffet, and each got a little scoop of just about everything.  To my surprise, Tim's favorite item was the Cabbage Masala.  It was a little spicy and aromatic and so different from the creamy curried tomato sauces that drenched most of the other options.  I loved it so much I would have been willing to loosen the top button of my jeans to eat a little more.  When else have I ever considered stuffing myself on cabbage?

I picked up some Madras Curry Powder last weekend at Colonel De and opted to use that instead of my usual garam masala.  The main difference in the two spice blends is that the Madras Curry Powder doesn't have cloves in it while the garam masala does.  Oh, and Madras Curry can be spicy--which we like very much.  Overall, it lightened up the aromatics of this dish, but the few whole cloves I threw into the hot oil were just enough for a hint of that flavor.

And so Madras Cabbage with Peas was reinvented for this home cook.  A skeptical Tim, who prefers a big slice of meat with the majority of his meals, was completely satisfied with my make-at-home version.  The beauty of this recipe is that you could use just about any vegetables you wanted.  If you decide to make this with potatoes, you will need to either pre-boil the potatoes or add some water to the pan and allow it to reduce.  I've done that before and you end up with a lovely sauce.  I also suggest chickpeas, cauliflower, or carrots to compliment the curry powder.

And in case you can't find Madras Curry Powder, you could always substitute Garam Masala (just don't add the whole cloves).  I've been able to find the latter at my local Indian grocery store.  Or, if you're inclined to make your own spice blends, the label of my Madras Curry Powder says that it contains (in the order of the label): coriander, cumin, peppercorns, black mustard seeds, chili, fenugreek, turmeric.  I am unsure of the amounts of each.

Madras Cabbage with Peas
serves 4 as main course, 6 as a side dish

2 tbsp canola oil

1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/4 tsp whole cloves
2-3 small yellow onions, peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick

1 to 1.5 lbs green cabbage, cored and sliced into long thin strips about 1/4 inch thick
2 tsp Madras Curry Powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt & pepper

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add mustard seeds and cloves until fragrant and slightly brown, about 3 minutes.  Add onion and cook until almost translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add cabbage to the pan and stir occasionally for 6-7 minutes, until cabbage has begun to wilt and even slightly brown.  Sprinkle curry powder, turmeric, and red pepper flakes over cabbage and stir.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until cabbage is just barely still firm yet easy to bite.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve over rice or with flatbread.  (Maybe even gluten free naan?)

Please check out Grumpy Granny's Host Post for a round up of the entries and the announcement of the winner in a few days on her blog!


  1. I love it that you took cabbage in such an unexpected direction! And thanks for the tips on madras curry powder vs. garam masala. Would you share info about your local Indian store?

    Thanks for participating in the Smackdown again, Jen!

  2. Oh I love how you did this post - great photos and the credits are a nice addition. then I looked at the dish you were making! I've never cooked with curry powder of any kind, but I LOVE Indian food. I'm a vegetarian so I find I have many more options when eating out if I go to an Indian place.

  3. Nummy num num, LOVE indian food! Looks really good, Jen! I love how Indians cook with so many different vegetables allowing completely different flavor profiles...like with okra too. Good luck!

  4. This looks just delicious! I haven't been able to look at curry powder the same way since a complete kitchen meltdown...however, your recipe just might make curry my friend again!

    ...Also, I'll be a meal planner anytime. I had a major health complication my senior year of HS and freshman year of college and had to create very detailed menu plans with calorie/fat/protein/etc counts and everything. Let's just say I'm still pretty darn good at it! [=

  5. I have a rather large stash of various curry powders and some garam masala. Now I know what do to with some of them. Great job on this smackdown and sorry you had trouble posting your entry link. Eggy to the rescue, never fear, you're in the running!

    Thanks for playing,

  6. I came over from GG's blog and am a smackdown participant. I dig Indian food and have had chicken, lamb and goat masala, but never cabbage. It looks great.

  7. Sounds like a great way to gussy up cabbage. Thank you!

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