What Is Sweetheart (Or Less Prosaically, Pointed, Hispi Or Sugarloaf) Cabbage And How Should It Be Cooked?

What is sweetheart cabbage?

Sweetheart cabbage is sweeter and more tender than ordinary cabbage and doesn’t take so long to cook. It’s tight, green and leafy. Also known as pointed, hispi, or sugarload cabbage, the name sweetheart is used because of its sweet flavour, and because the French word for cabbage, chou, is used as a pet name for a sweetheart. So it does not get its name, as you might think, because it has a shape like a heart.

Sometimes sweetheart cabbage is also known as Chinese cabbage (see comment below by Azad). This is wrong though. For more about Chinese leaf (aka Chinese cabbage) which isn’t, in fact, a cabbage, follow this link.

What are the best things to do with sweetheart cabbage?

  • The shredded cabbage goes well in stir fries – use some walnut oil and throw in some dried cranberries.
  • Or you can cook it in boiling water for about five minutes drain, and then add butter and lots of Tellicherry black pepper.
  • Because it’s sweeter than most cabbage it’s good for fermenting – for example in sauerkraut.
  • Or you can fry it for about ten minutes in butter with a chopped red onion and a couple of thinly sliced leeks.
  • Stir fry with cranberries.
  • Meat-eaters can fry some chopped rindless bacon first, and then, using the bacon fat from the bacon to fry, add the shredded cabbage, onion, leeks and perhaps some chopped nuts (pistachios maybe?). Finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • At Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall the signature dish has been bass with hispi (sweetheart) cabbage and Porthilly sauce (a sauce invented by Outlaw, of tomatoes, butter and olive oil).
  • Or stir fry in a little butter with chilli, garlic, oregano, white wine and either clams or mussels
  • A suggestion from Tom Griffiths of Flank: “The best side dish ever. Chop into quarters. Brush with lard, cook until caramelised”.
  • Or, as it’s served at The Fishes, just south of Oxford, in charred wedges with smoked bacon, breadcrumbs and chives.
  • Or, another charred idea, this time from Ben Tish, chef director of The Game Bird at The Stafford. This hispi is treated with bottarga and marsala and served with a rose veal chop.
  • Charred again, with hazelnuts and sage
  • Charred again, then braised briefly in chicken stock
  • At Brindisa in London, they serve Ajo Blanco con Repollo…chestnut, almond and garlic cream, chargriilled hispi cabbage, pickled mushrooms

Hispi cabbage with garlic and almond sauce at Brindisa.
what to do with hispi cabbage
Hispi cooked in hot goose fat and sprinkled with dukkah.
  • Cut in half, and fry, cut side down, in beef dripping. Transfer, cut side up, to an oven proof dish, and bake with seasoning, some thyme, and some dripping-moistened breadcrumbs.
Goes particularly well with a bacon and cheese feuilleté

What is the season for sweetheart cabbage?

The season in the UK is from May – November, but it’s grown in Spain from November to April so if you want it for Valentine’s day it should be easy to find.

what to do with sweetheart cabbage

You may also like…

Our other posts on specialist fruit and vegetables

Our post on different types of cabbage

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This article is incorrect. Chinese cabbage, aka Napa cabbage, is NOT the same as sweetheart cabbage. They are different in shape (napa cabbage does not have a pointy shape) This article caused a bit of an argument between my wife and me (she’s Chinese from the North where Napa cabbage is originated!)

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