First of all make sure you have lime. We’ll get to that later.
Rinse the Cabbage – Get yourself a spanking new head of cabbage the size of a football. Cut off 1/3rd of it and leave it in the fridge for another day. Split the remainder in two lengthwise. Now tenderly dismantle the rest of the cabbage leaving cores intact and rinse it good in water. I know. But I am like that. How to dismantle a cabbage you ask? What? Your mother didn’t teach you that. Must I have to get into that now.
How to dismantle a Cabbage – OK. If you insist. Kids these days. You dismantle a cabbage leaf by leaf and it will squeak at each turn like there were little fairy children stuck between the leaves. You trim off the really near woody ends in the leaves in part closest to the core. Throw out any blemished leaves on outside or feed it to your compost heap or your worms. Once most of the leaves are removed then you get to the core which is usually paler and that you don’t have to dismantle. That is when you are about 2/3rd to 1/4ths of the way to the heart of the cabbage. Yes. Cabbages also have hearts. And to get to the heart you have to rip out the leaves. Yeah.
Sacré-Cœur – Sometimes there is a tough core you get to as you get to the centre of the cabbage. That you’ll have to remove and you should not use it unless you are really desperate. It almost kinda feels knobbish. Ask some other time.
Slice the bloody Cabbage – Place rinsed cabbage leaves in a colander to drain. These leaves have ribs and the outer leaves have ribs that are like the Drakensberg Range. Trim the leaves one by one of the tougher ribs that run down the middle of each leaf. Only the larger ribs. Slice the ribs real thin with a good sharp knife. I use my chef’s knife for pretty much most of my cutting jobs. Now take the leaves or parts thereof. Start with the outer leaves. Lay them one on top of the other about four ply. Slice them into strips about ¼ inch to ½ inch wide. Once the leaves are done slice the cores. Since they are more tender you’ll find they are easier to slice after the slightly less tender outer leaves. But this is all good stuff so don’t throw out anything. Place the sliced cabbage in a large bowl as you progress.
Green Chillies – Fresh and hot – Once you are done slicing the cabbage slice about 3 – 4 fresh hot green chillies and add to it. Or you can adjust to taste if you are a coward. If you are a daredevil go for it.
Get yourself about 4 – 5 dry red chillies and pound it with about a heaping tablespoon of maldive fish chips. Set aside. Add a 1” piece of Ceylon cinnamon to it with about ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds.
Set aside a teaspoon of mustard seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Also about a tablespoon of fresh/frozen curry leaves. (Never dry. That’s disgusting).
Get yourself about a heaping teaspoon of turmeric and two teaspoons good dark roasted Ceylon curry powder.
Slice about 3 small onions lengthwise. Mince fine a piece of ginger about a thumb’s size. (Ha! My thumb). About 5-10 cloves of garlic peeled, then sliced lengthwise and then halved lengthwise.
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan that could hold all of the cabbage, heat about 1/3 or 1/4th cup of oil to near smoking over medium heat. Take off stove and take a splatter shield and quickly throw in the mustard seeds and cover with splatter shield. They will pop and easily burn you. Be careful. Then add the fennel seeds to brown. Use splatter shield. Then bring back to the stove at medium heat. Add the curry leaves and when fragrant (takes a minute or less, much less) and the onions and fry stirring often till near brown and cooked through having added a ¼ teaspoon salt to it. Stir all the time and once cooked and beginning to brown make a space in middle and add the garlic and continue to stir till beginning to soften but do not burn.
Make some space in pan and add some oil (tablespoon) into the space and heat till hot. Add the pounded chillies and maldive fish and stir without burning and then add the fenugreek and Ceylon cinnamon. Stir for a few seconds and make some space in pan. Add and stir the turmeric and curry powder. Stir a few seconds till fragrant and now incorporate everything in pan.
Add the cabbage in batches starting with one fourth. Keep stirring. Reduce heat if it’s too high so you don’t burn the cabbage. That’d be disgusting. Watch and stir and keep adding the rest of cabbage in similar batches till all is incorporated. Keep heat as high as possible but not so high it would burn the cabbage. Keep stirring. Once all the cabbage is in keep stirring for about 15 minutes till cabbage is bite tender. Taste for salt and adjust seasonings.
Adding cabbage in batches … and constantly stirring it so it does not burn.
Done and glistening.
Adding Egg – Season three eggs with salt, pepper, turmeric and Ceylon brown curry powder and lightly beat. In another pan take enough cabbage kottu for two and make sure it stays hot. Make space in middle and add the egg mix. Wait till egg starts to set at bottom (in minutes) and then gently stir so egg cooks and are in soft pieces that are seasoned with all the spices.
If one wants to egg the kottu so to speak in larger batches do the same in a larger pan. But I’ve never tried that. I tend to add the eggs in serving sizes of 2 – 3 at a time.
Serve with lime slices and if you like, Grace’s hot sauce. Will make your heart race. And that’s a good thing, eh?
August 7, 2015, Toronto.