I rarely profess to being exceptional in the kitchen but I will brag about making really good salads. Sorry, but it’s true.
With other meals, I tend to rely on recipes and research but with salads, I love to get creative and ‘wing it’. This is because there is nothing that disappoints me more than a boring salad that you have to force yourself to eat. I’m looking at you lettuce and tomato salad!
So, I love to add a variety of ingredients, textures and colours to make my salads as exciting as possible – it’s important that all the senses are satisfied. I particularly love adding crunch to the mix, so here is the recipe for my Crunchy Cabbage Salad:
♦ 1/2 wombok (baby Chinese cabbage)
♦ 1/4 purple cabbage
♦ Handful of fresh snowpeas
♦ 2 – 3 shallots
♦ 1 small bunch coriander
♦ 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
♦ 100g slivered almonds
♦ 1 packet Changs Oriental Fried Noodles
♦ 1-2 small red hot chilli to taste
♦ 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
♦ 3 tbl Rice Bran Syrup (or you can use 1/4 cup castor sugar)
♦ 1 tbl soy sauce
♦ 2 tbl sesame oil
♦ 1 tsp char siu bbq sauce
♦ 1/2 cup olive oil
1) Chop the wombok, cabbage, snow peas, shallot, coriander and chilli and set aside. I like to slice thinly / shred all these ingredients. You do not need to cook the snow peas – in fact, they are sweet and deliciously crunchy as is and therefore work really well as a fresh ingredient in the salad.
2) Combine the dressing ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat. You will need to stir until the ingredients are dissolved. When it’s done, remove from the stove and cool.
3) Place a frying pan on the stove and add the sunflower seeds and almonds to toast. You do not need to add any oil as this will cause the mix to lose its crunch. Keep a watch over it as Murphy’s Law has it that the moment you turn your back these start to burn and go black. Once they are golden, remove from the stove and the pan (as they will continue to cook) and allow to cool.
4) One of the key rules of salad making, especially for picnics or any time when you are not eating the salad straight away, is to add the dressing JUST BEFORE you are about to serve it. If you don’t, the salad mix goes slimy and soggy and gross. So, the rule is DO NOT ADD THE DRESSING NOW. Pour the dressing into a leak-proof container so that you can take it with you to your picnic.
5) As per 4) above, you should also keep the almonds and seeds separate from the rest of the mix and add in just before serving. We mixed ours in with the salad ingredients and they had lost some of their crunch by the time we had our picnic. Lesson learnt. Pack your toasted almonds and sunflower seeds in a jar to take with you together with your Chang’s Oriental Fried Noodles.
FUN PICNIC TIP: One really fun and practical way of packaging this salad for your picnic is to use individual mason jars. This is also really helpful if someone has a food intolerance to one of the ingredients. For example, I have an intolerance to garlic, onion and shallot, so these are out for me (boo!). If we had mixed this salad in a large bowl I would have spent most of lunch picking out shallots from my serve. So, I simply created a shallot-free salad jar for me and added shallot to the other jars. Pretty genius. The other benefit of individual jars is that you don’t have a big, dirty salad bowl and utensils to lug home. Simply screw the jar when you’re done and all the mess is contained inside until you’re ready to clean up.
We enjoyed the Crunchy Cabbage Salad with crispy pork belly at our Carramar Pork Belly & Gelato Picnic. The flavour and delicate hint of char siu in the dressing went beautifully with the pork.
So, dear reader, I’d love to know – what do you put in your salads to make them exciting?