Hello half term, hello rain, hello filthy sickness bugs, ‘it’s not fair’. As you can see, half term dawns, the heavens open, the pink one is sick. Oh yippee, who’s the next victim? but as the ‘little peoples’ favorite book tells me ‘life is not fair’ and the ‘it’s not fairy’ is always here to remind us of that, life trundles on, the kitchen gets redecorated, paints go everywhere and the furniture is moved. The ‘little people’ have reliably informed me their ‘cafe’ has opened, ooh Mr.P is going to be thrilled, his prize and somewhat beautiful drawing room has been turned over to toddler chaos, so much for the cream, suede chaise longue, another harsh reminder of how not to decorate your flat with two rascals under waist height. In the midst of the carnage, laughter, tears and fun, I attempt to eat lunch with the hooligans, and a lunch that is not nursery food! I indulge myself, just every now and again and make this remarkably easy and totally divine ‘taste sensation’ slaw.
The very word ‘slaw’ conjures up rather bad memories of slimy carrot, rancid onion and tasteless cabbage slathered in mayo slopped on the side of every pub food plate throughout childhood. Not that I recall eating out that often – but when we did the ‘white nasty slaw’ thing was always there, I was never really sure if it was garnish or part of the dish it featured so regularly it was hard to escape!! However this creation, from the inspired ‘Ottolenghi’, is from his second book and is not even a distant cousin of the ‘slaw’ that haunted my younger days. It is a country mile from anything covered in mayo and much the better for it. I mention it because in a book like ‘Plenty’ one can sometimes skip through the brightly, beautifully pictured pages, slightly overwhelmed by the content. Do stop at this recipe though, it is really good and has had double green lights from Mr.P!! So not just girly food.
This is particularly good with marinated chicken. I use chicken supremes which I marinate in really whatever is knocking around the larder or fridge, lime zest, fresh chilli, ginger, garlic, honey and soy are the likely contenders but all sorts of combinations work. Do give it a whirl the chicken and slaw combo really is yummy and a welcome colorful change for half term!
Ottolenghi’s ‘Sweet Winter Slaw’ – Plenty
For the dressing
100ml lime juice
1 lemon grass, chopped into small pieces
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp chilli flakes
4 tbsp light olive oil
For the salad
150g macadamia nuts
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli flakes
7 inner leaves Savoy cabbage (170g), shredded
½ red cabbage (270g), shredded
1 mango, peeled, stoned and cut into thin strips
1 papaya, peeled, deseeded and cut into strips
1 red chilli, deseeded and cut into thin slices
15g fresh mint leaves
20g fresh coriander leaves
To make the dressing, put all the ingredients except the olive oil into a small saucepan, and reduce for five to 10 minutes, until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat. Once it has cooled down, strain into a bowl, stir in the oil and set aside.
Put the macadamias in a hot frying pan and dry-roast for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly coloured on all sides. Add the butter and, once it has melted, the sugar, salt and chilli. Use a wooden spoon to stir constantly, to keep the nuts coated in the sugar as it caramelises. Be careful because this will take only a minute or two and the nuts can burn very quickly. Turn out the nuts on to a sheet of greaseproof paper and, once cool, roughly chop them.
Put the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl, along with the rest of the salad ingredients. Add the cool dressing, toss and taste. Add salt if you need to, and serve immediately.
AND lastly do try and get your hands on the book, ‘It’s Not Fairy’ by Ros Asquith – a totally brilliant tale to deal with life not being ‘fair!