Thursday, 31 January 2013

James Request: Red Cabbage Sweet Slaw

I'm slightly in shock that I've never cooked an Ottolenghi recipe for you guys before. I mean, I have three of his recipe books (the latest a present from my girls when I auditioned for MasterChef) and I religiously visit the restaurant with Arielle at least once when I'm in London. Ottolenghi has AMAZING looking desserts but more importantly, a lovely philosophy of fresh food and bold flavours cooked by people obsessed by food. All things I can relate to. He's also fantastic with vegetables in all of his recipe books, but especially in 'Plenty', a purely vegetarian recipe book.
So, when I did a bit of a call out for inspiration for recipes for the blog, and James asked for something with Red Cabbage, my instinct was to reach for an Ottolenghi cookbook. And I was right. I found this lovely but bold Sweet Winter Slaw that featured red cabbage. What I liked about it was the mixture between sweet (maple syrup, fruit, caramelised macadamia nuts), spicy (chilli), salty (ummm...salt. Oh, and soy sauce) and savoury (cabbage, coriander) that all balanced out perfectly. There was also a mixture of textures: crunchy (caramelised nuts, cabbage) and soft (the fruit) that added an extra dimension to it. I probably would like a little more salt in it, but that could be just me, or it could be that I didn't season it well enough. I could also imagine adding a bit of fish sauce to the dressing, and palm sugar, to give it a bit more of an Asian feel. But no matter what, it's definitely one that I'd be happy to serve up again.

BTW, I only made half the recipe, but the whole dressing amount. I wasn't feeding 6 people, but I also know I like more dressing than most recipes allow for.

Ingredients (serves 6)
150g macadamia nuts
10g butter
2 tbsp sugar (I used caster as it's easy to caramelise with caster)
1/2 tsp salt
7 inner leaves (or 170g) of savoy cabbage - the recipe is really specific...I wasn't. I just used a heap of fresh savoy cabbage
1/2 (or 270g) of red cabbage - again, I wasn't so specific with amounts for this either
1 mango
1 papaya
1 fresh red chilli
15g, or a small handful, of mint
20g, or a small handful, of coriander
100g lime juice, which is about two lovely juicy limes
1 lemongrass stalk
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil - now, you may notice that I was having a completely ditzy day and I used sesame SEEDS...derrr...In fact, I didn't even notice my mistake until writing this up. On the plus side, it still tasted lovely, but I can imagine the extra dimension that sesame OIL will bring
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
4 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

Start by making the dressing. Roll the limes on a board with the palm of your hand. This helps to break the pulp on the inside which means you get more juice out of the limes. Juice the limes to get your 100g lime juice and put it into a small saucepan. Grab out the lemongrass, lay it on a board and bash in with the flat of the knife. This helps to start breaking down the lemongrass as it can be quite tough. Chop it in half lengthways and then cut it into small pieces. Don't worry if the pieces aren't even, as it gets strained out at the end. Add this to the lime juice. Then add in the 3 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp soy sauce and 1/4 tsp chilli flakes.
Put the saucepan on the stove and simmer over a high heat for 5 - 10mins, or until the sauce goes thick and syrupy. I didn't let it go too thick, as I like my dressing to cover my salad, but I did let it go a nice, caramely colour. Set it aside to cool.

Next is the macadamia nuts. Put your 150g of macadamia nuts into a small, dry saucepan and dry roast for a few minutes until they are a bit coloured on all sides. Add in the 10g of butter and let it melt. Add in the 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 2/3 tsp chilli flakes and mix constantly with a wooden spoon. Let the sugar cook, and caramelise  stirring to coat the nuts. Be careful, this process happens quickly, especially with such a small amount of sugar.
Once this is a lovely rich colour, poor everything out onto a piece of greaseproof paper. This will allow everything to cool and harden without sticking to anything.

While the nuts and dressing is cooling, time to make the salad. Finely slice/shred the savoy cabbage and the red cabbage and stick it in a nice big bowl.
Peel and slide the papaya and mango and add it to the bowl.
Roughly chop a small handful of the mint and coriander and put them in the bowl as well. Deseed the chilli, finely chop it up and add to the salad.
Now, time to finish off the nuts and the dressing. Take the nuts off the greaseproof paper and roughly chop them. I was feeling a bit lazy, so I actually wrapped them up in the paper and bashed it with a rolling pin. Same effect, less time. Next, strain the dressing into a bowl and add the 2 tbsp sesame oil (not seeds) and 4 tbsp olive or sunflower oil. Mix the dressing up well and pour as much or as little as you want over the salad. And you're done. Maybe a slightly complicated salad, but worth the effort.

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