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Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Put the star anise, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods in the centre of a small square of muslin, and tie the ends together to make a bag. Put the spice bag in a medium flameproof casserole dish.
Remove any wilted or tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut it into quarters, then remove and discard the core. Shred the cabbage finely and layer up in the dish with the garlic, onions, apple and brown sugar.
Spoon over the vinegar and dot the top with the butter. Cover with a lid and cook for 21/2-3 hrs, stirring twice during cooking – the cabbage should be tender but not mushy. Remove the spice bag and serve.