My cabbages are getting away from me now too, the last of the winter crops colliding with the first of the summer ones. We’re just about to pass Beltane, the point on the calendar when the day length curve flattens out into the long hot days of summer. From now on, leafy greens are hard. Those big green leaves are adapted to catching every bit of scarce sunlight, not to avoiding sunburn. The grasshoppers and cabbage moths are getting active. And everything wants to reproduce. As fast as I harvest them, another makes a bolt.
So we are eating a lot of cabbage. Okonomiyaki are a Japanese cabbage pancake, and if you are conjuring up images of British boiled cabbage or bubble and squeak, you’re on the wrong track. Okonomiyaki are comfort food, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, not very cabbagey at all but a vehicle for the toppings, nothing at all of acquired taste about them. I’d be willing to bet you could get them past the pickiest of non-vegetable eaters.
Proper Okonomiyaki have several special ingredients that are hard to get in my little country town. But inauthentic Okonomiyaki are fast and easy with just what I have in the garden and in an ordinary pantry.
Makes two large, dinner sized Okonomiyaki, or four small ones.
The toppings make it, so start with them.
Proper classic okonomiyaki have a whole range of toppings including Japanese mayonnaise and seaweed and bonito flakes. I never have the right toppings in my pantry, so I make do with homemade mayonnaise with a little honey added, Worcestershire sauce mixed half and half with tomato sauce, chopped spring onion tops or chives, and toasted macadamia flakes.
Have the toppings ready because the okonomiyaki are best topped and eaten straight away while they are hot and fresh.
- Finely shred a couple of cups, packed, of cabbage, and two big spring onions (the whites and some of the green)
- Put in a big bowl and tip in half a cup of wholemeal flour and a pinch of salt.
- Toss the cabbage and spring onion in the flour so that they are coated. (I just use my hands for this).
- Beat two big or three small eggs till they are frothy. Tip into the floury cabbage and mix until it is all just combined. Don’t overmix it – you want the gluten undeveloped. (Again, I find this easiest with hands). You want the flour to be all wet and the mix to stick together if you squeeze a handful. If it is too thick, add a little water.
- Heat some light olive oil in a pan. Spoon the cabbage mix in and flatten it with the back of a spatula (or your hands) to make a thick pancake, or a big, thin pattie.
- Fry for a few minutes until it is browning and crispy on the bottom and the top is more or less set.
- Now comes the tricky bit. I find it easy to turn by putting a plate over it and flipping the pancake onto the plate, then sliding it off the plate back into the pan. If the top is not set enough, you can flip it again onto another plate, then into the pan. I think you would have to be very skilled to flip big ones with just an eggflip without breaking them.
- Cook until the other side is brown and crispy too, then serve hot with toppings.