One of my online friends calls this technique hypercooked vegetables – long cooking so familiar in the traditional Italian and Greek cuisines. The result is a surprising lusciousness, intensity of flavour, and an almost stickiness. They are deeply flavoured and a little tart. I have made this dish with cabbage and with beetroot greens, but I am sure it would work with any leafy greens that do not collapse immediately on heat (eg most of the salad greens would be unsuitable).
You will find it difficult to stop diving into the cooking pot once these have collapsed down into their jammy texture. But if you do leave some, serve as a side dish, or over rice or any other grain, lentil or bean (freekeh, couscous, white beans, burghul, red rice, etc), turn into a soup with a handful of the one of the tiniest soup pastas, orzo pasta or rice, or just ladle it over thick slices of toast with a drizzle of olive oil. I have also cooked turnips, diced, and added to these beetroot greens. I sometimes add sultanas to counterpoint the tartness.
The mustard seeds and cumin that I added this time are purely optional.
Do try on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when you have time to let the greens collapse and intensify.
Collapsed Beetroot Greens (or any Greens or Cabbage)
1 large bunch of green leaves such as beetroot leaves, or 1 medium cabbage, finely sliced
1 onion, diced
0.5 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
0.75 – 1 Tblspn cider vinegar, or red or white wine vinegar (no more than 1 Tblspn)
spices – see the notes below the recipe
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion. Cook the onion until it is a deep golden colour – perhaps about 8 minutes. Do not let it darken. Add the garlic, mix well, and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the garlic does not burn.
(optional) If you are using any spices, add them now and toast them for about a minute or a little less. If using mustard seed, allow them to pop.
Now add the shredded greens. Mix them well with the oil and aromatics and allow to cook down until wilted.
Add the salt, pepper and vinegar and mix once again. Cover the pan with a tight lid and place on a very low heat. Use a heat diffuser if necessary. Cook for 1.5 – 2 hours, stirring periodically. They will now be very tender. If water is needed during cooking, add only a couple of Tblspns.
Remove from the heat and leave to sit for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
They can be made a few days in advance, and are indeed even better the next day.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add spices to the mix if desired, but sparingly as the flavours will intensify. Caraway seed and bay leaf for cabbage, for example, and I have used mustard seed and cumin seed for beetroot greens.
Vary the vinegar – use rice wine vinegar or even a tamarind-hot water mix for variation.
To make a soup with the greens, add water or vegetable stock, a small handful of tiny soup pasta, orzo pasta or rice, and cook until the pasta or rice is well cooked. Season. Serve with a generous helping of parmesan in each bowl.
Soaked sultanas mixed with the cooked greens is also very nice – a sweet hit amongst the tart vegetables.