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April 22, 2014 / mintcustard

Charlie Bucket’s Cabbage soup – an antidote to all that Easter chocolate!

One of my previous incarnations was as the writer of a cook book that brought food from the movies to life, Movie Dinners by Becky Thorn. After all the chocolate indulgence of Easter perhaps we need a big bowl of Mrs Bucket’s cabbage soup to kick start the detox!


Charlie and the chocolate factory (2005)

“sometimes I feel I’ve eaten cabbage soup forever.”

Cabbage soup

Living in the shadow of Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory in a tumble down, dilapidated cottage the Bucket family exist on a subsistence diet of cabbage soup and if they are lucky, bread. Frost covered cabbages squat in the garden of this poor but kindly family. Charlie’s mother dispatches several of these cabbages to the great soup tureen in the sky almost as soon as the movie begins using a scarily large cleaver. The monotony of the family’s diet in such a dark, depressing and impoverished hovel contrasts superbly with the vivid and extraordinary culinary creations escaping from the imagination of Willy Wonka. This grinding banality is underlined by Grandpa George complaining that “sometimes I feel I’ve eaten cabbage soup forever.”

Smells are incredibly evocative, in the movie’s opening scene Charlie stops close to the factory gates, closes his eyes and breathes in deeply, savouring the wonderful smell of melting chocolate. I very much doubt he does the same when he nears the front door of his family home. Cabbage soup can be filling and tasty, something Mrs Bucket struggled to achieve. She watered down the soup on bad days and on days of plenty added extra cabbage because “nothing goes better with cabbage than cabbage”.

Let me prove to you, and the Buckets, that with a few inexpensive additions cabbage soup can be tasty and even looked forward to. Mind you, as good as this is I’d swap it all for a bar of Wonka’s whipple scrumptious fudge mallow delight and a trip round a chocolate factory with Johnny Depp.

Mise en scene

1  cabbage (any variety you choose from brussel tops to Cavalo Nero depending on your finances or aspirations.)

2 large potatoes, diced (floury are best for this recipe)

Several rashers of streaky bacon

1 onion or leek chopped finely

750ml stock and a jug of hot water

Splash of milk or cream

Knob of butter


White pepper

It’s all in the edit!.

  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. Trim any damaged areas and cut out the thicker central ribs as these are very tough. Shred the cabbage very finely, Chiffonade is the technical term for this. Rinse and place in a bowl of water.
  2. Cut the bacon into small pieces and place into a large pan. Cook the bacon until very crispy. Remove from the saucepan but leave as much bacon fat behind as possible.
  3. Add the onion or leeks to the bacon fat and cook until softened. You may need a small knob of butter or splash of oil here. You decide.
  4. Drain the shredded cabbage and add all but a handful to the pan. Allow to wilt and soften for two or three minutes and then add in the stock. Bring to a simmer, tip in the cubed potatoes, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes give the whole thing a vigorous stir. This will break up the potatoes a little and thicken the soup. Use the hot water here if the soup has become very thick. Add in your splash of milk or cream, the remaining handful of cabbage and season with salt and white pepper. Cook on for another 5 minutes to soften the later cabbage addition.
  6. Serve in a warm bowl topped with the crispy bacon pieces.
  7. Anyone who licks their bowl clean should be rewarded with a square or two of good quality dark chocolate and a Johnny Depp movie of their choice.

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