Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Winter Slaw (or the only way to eat red cabbage)

Red cabbage and sprouts. Two vegetables best eaten raw. 

After a childhood of sprout and red cabbage aversion (in which I am fully aware I am not alone) it was a revelation to discover that neither require nor, in my most humble opinion, benefit from cooking. 

Nine. That was the number of sprouts on my plate as a child. Nine. What sort of parents make their sprout-detesting child sit and look at nine whole sprouts? Mine. Although of course they'll laugh and dismiss the very idea if I ever mention it. I recall my attempts to disguise them from myself by smothering them in mashed swede (why sully a decent element of my roast dinner with the dreaded sprouts when I could combine two of the most revolting foods on my plate?). Luckily for me I had younger siblings who were rather partial to a sprout or two. So with a little distraction and the odd flick of a knife here and there, I managed to offload a few. The requirement to eat nine did eventually reduce to three. Three. Still three too many. 

The first time I willing ate, and (gasp) actually enjoyed, sprouts was with family in France last Easter. A simple salad of finely shaved raw sprouts, lemon, cheese and hazelnuts made by Lisa. I even had seconds. 

Red cabbage at its best

Red cabbage was no better. As a child I only ever knew it slowly braised with apple or pickled and served straight from the jar along side homemade shepherd's pie. (I'm guessing that's a northern thing). Pickled I could live with, crisp at least, even if the vinegar it was doused in was of the most mouth-stripping, astringent kind. But braised was up there with the worst of the over cooked sprouts. Slightly sweet, heady with clove and allspice. It has a bit of the marmites about it. Love it or hate it. 

A winter slaw is where red cabbage excels. I'm not overly fond of the traditional coleslaw. Vegetables which have spent too long languishing in a creamy, almost cloying, sauce made with excessive amounts of cheap mayonnaise. (Although that is not to say that a simple, well made celeriac rĂ©moulade would be banished from my plate. An entirely different beast. Crisp celeriac given the briefest of introductions to lemon juice, Dijon mustard, good mayonnaise and a little natural yogurt. Perhaps tinged pink with grated beetroot stirred through moments before serving). 

When a red cabbage finds its way into my fridge it is for the sole purpose of making a salad. A crisp, colourful, wintery salad. Or three or four. It is a bountiful vegetable which keeps on giving, staying fresh long after the parsley has wilted, making this salad a great fridge foraged lunch.

You don't have to use the same ingredients every time, it really will depend on what is lurking in your fridge, but the crisper and more robust the better. Celeriac, beetroot, cabbage, kohlrabi… 

Winter Slaw


¼ tsp salt
juice ½ lemon
2 tbsp light extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled
¼ medium red cabbage
½ apple, core removed
½ pomegranate
2 or 3 mejool dates
small handful of flat leaf parsley leaves


Begin by making the dressing. Put the salt and lemon juice into a medium sized bowl and whisk with a fork. Add the olive oil and whisk until combined.

You can use a mandolin to prepare the carrot, red cabbage and apple, or (like me) a chopping board and a big sharp knife. Julienne the carrot and finely slice the red cabbage. Add them to the dressing and stir well to combine.

Finely slice the apple (I like to leave the skin on) and add to the carrot and red cabbage before it has chance to start turning brown.

Remove and discard the stones from the dates and finely chop the dates. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate (I do this by holding the half a pomegranate over a bowl and bashing the skin side with a wooden spoon or rolling pin).

Add the dates, pomegranate seeds and flat leaf parsley to the slaw, stir and serve immediately. 

Winter Slaw