Even though I deeply love food and am a total food nerd, I rarely get caught up in restaurant or chef hype. But after Season One of Chef’s Table, the beautiful mini documentaries on chefs and their stories, inspirations and roots, I gave in to Chef Rene Redzepi of NOMA in Copenhagen, a four-time winner of the “Best Restaurant in the World” award.
I don’t put much stock in awards, for there are remarkable chefs the world over who may never be recognized for their work, though they might craft masterpieces daily. But his love of fermentation, emphasis on farm relationships and simple, local ingredients used in unexpected ways is most beautiful and worthy of adoration. I recently saw a NOMA Instagram post on cabbage ice cream, and my first reaction was no! Cabbage ice cream?
Strange and yet intriguing…and it got me thinking. How is this different to a green smoothie? Both preparations simply veil vegetables in sweetness so we can consume even more of their life-giving goodness. I have a green smoothie nearly every day with this in mind, therefore it can also be true of dessert.
The silkiness of coconut and a complex hint of lavender elevate our humble red cabbage and its cancer-fighting magic to dessert status. Blender- and vegan-friendly, this royal purple treat also allows you to switch up lavender for berries.
If this use of cabbage is a creative step too far for you, substitute with grated beets instead. They offer many benefits as well as beautiful color and their own natural sweetness.
RECIPE Time: 1 hour total; make most of this one day ahead, finish in 5-7 mins before serving Serves: 2-3 persons
INGREDIENTS 220ml canned coconut milk 2 bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen Top wedge sliced off 1 red/purple cabbage, or about 70g/1 handful of chopped cabbage OR one small beet, washed well, peeled and finely grated 2 Tbsp honey (best with lavender), maple syrup or stevia as desired
1 Tbsp dried lavender flowers, suitable for eating (via Dille & Kamille, tea or spice shops) 1 pinch fine sea salt OR 1 handful of blueberries or blackberries (if lavender is too fussy for you)
HOW TO Combine the coconut milk with lavender and bring to a low boil, mixing thoroughly or whisking to break up the coconut fat bits. Turn off heat when it reaches a boil, then add the natural sweetener and salt, letting it steep for 20-25 mins covered. Strain the mixture and discard the lavender flowers.
Now blend the chopped cabbage into the mixture very finely. If it is too chunky, you can strain it, but leave some of the cabbage for extra fiber! If using a blender, reserve about 150ml of the mix and store separately in a jar or closed container in the fridge; pour the rest into an ice cube tray and freeze overnight or at least 6-8 hours. Chop bananas into chunks and freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag.
You can make this up to two days ahead if desired, which is great for entertaining.
Coconut Blackberry Ice Cream If you opt for berry flavour, warm the coconut milk up in the same way. Combine the salt and sweetener. Skip the 20 minutes steeping. When the mixture is cool, you can blend fresh berries in with the cabbage and strain out any seeds that will stick in your teeth. Note that if you use frozen berries, your coconut will become grainy as the fat gets cold. You can avoid this by heating them with the coconut milk. Then blend and strain the warm mixture to make sure it all combines well.
FINISH When ready to serve, pop the ice cream cubes and bananas into the food processor, or add the reserved liquid if using a blender, which will help it come together in the blender easier. You will have the smoothest end product if you do it in the food processor (using the blank plate). If you really want it hard and scoopable, blender users need to refreeze the mixture for 30-40 mins before serving. Garnish with some coconut flakes and/or fresh or frozen berries, if desired.
Blender Troubleshooting If your ice cream is still too thick for your blender, you can add plant milk to thin bit by bit until it blends smoothly. Too much and you get an icy milkshake, so go slowly. Oat, rice or a coconut rice milk blend would combine well, but almond changes the flavour in a way I don’t like.