Cabbage Salad

100_3672 smAt Christmastime last year, I walked into a bookstore. I don’t remember what I was looking for, but I know I wasn’t looking for a cookbook.

But there, facing outward on the shelf was Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. The simple beauty of the cover made me stop. I picked up the book and opened it, and suddenly my will was no longer my own.

There was an entire chapter on eggplants, and another on mushrooms, and pulses, and brassicas. There was even a chapter titled “Green Things”, featuring everything from artichokes to broad beans to asparagus. All accompanied by mouth-watering photographs.

I had to have the book. So I gave it to my husband for Christmas.

This afternoon, I was faced with cabbage in the garden that either needed to be picked or weeded. I chose to harvest. I had a longing for a cabbage salad, but didn’t want cole slaw. I went to Ottolenghi’s book, and found the perfect recipe.

Not that I actually made the recipe from the book, of course. It called for macadamia nuts, two different kinds of cabbage, mango, papaya, and fresh chilli…none of which I had. But I was intrigued and inspired, particularly by the dressing, which involved lime juice, lemongrass, maple syrup soy sauce and chilli flakes reduced over high heat to a thick syrup, then mixed with sesame oil and vegetable oil.

The original salad had you caramelise the macadamia nuts in butter, sugar and salt. I did the same with pumpkin seeds. I substituted oranges for the mango and papaya, used my one variety of cabbage, and fresh mint and cilantro from the garden.

The result was a marvellously complex, fresh, and delicious salad.

And even more importantly, I learned new flavour combinations and new techniques (the caramelized nuts, and the reduced dressing) for future salads. The best kind of recipe!