Crunchy Cabbage Salad

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:

Ingredients

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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

Dressing

♦   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

Method

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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.

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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.

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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.

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So, dear reader, I’d love to know – what do you put in your salads to make them exciting?

L&M

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Sataraš

Mark and I both come from a Croatian background although I am a bit of a mix as my Dad also has Italian heritage. Growing up, my family mainly spoke English at home so apart from rote learning prayers to say when we went to Croatian church or for when the priest came to bless our house (an annual Croatian tradition), my Croatian is not fluent or to be trusted.

I can understand Croatian when I hear it and I could follow what my Baka (grandmother) was saying as she used enough English words amongst her Croatian to help me along. I will get the general gist of about 70% of a conversation that takes place around me while I nod, smile and pretend I know exactly what’s going on. But, when I go to speak Croatian, some kind of terrible wire crosses in my brain and I always, always mix up words. Badly.

Here are some recent examples of what I have said and, in brackets, what I thought I was saying:

  • To my Dad: “Look Dad, I’m wearing my pancakes” (“Look Dad, I’m wearing my cute Croatian knitted slippers”)
  • To my work colleagues: “Try this cake in bear, it’s delicious” (“Try this honey cake, it’s delicious”)
  • To Mark: “I love a**hole jam” (“I love rose hip jam”)

And, for some reason I have especially good pronunciation of the swear words and so this is usually what comes out by mistake. Sorry Mum.

But despite my spoken Croatian being very entertaining, I have always enjoyed the cultural traditions and in particular, the food. You don’t need Google Translate for food.

Croatian food is delicious and heartwarming and Croatians (especially Bakas) love feeding people. As a child, my beautiful Baka would greet me with a big hug and then immediately say, “Sjedi i jedi, Lien”, which means, “Sit and eat, Leanne”.

So to kick off The Picnic Press recipe series, I thought it would be fun to start with a Croatian recipe as a nod to our heritage and for something a little different.

I chose to make Sataraš (pronounced sa-ta-rush) for our Centennial Park Sausage vs. Sausage Dog Picnic.

Sataraš is the Croatian version of tomato relish and used as a complement to meat dishes.

I’m not going to claim that my version of Sataraš is authentically ‘Croatian’ as I have added in a couple of additional elements. But, it was tested on Mark’s mum (who is a fabulous cook) and given the seal of approval, so I’m less reluctant to share it.

Traditionally, Sataraš is made with majority red capsicum, tomato and onion. I had some eggplant and green capsicum to use up and thought, why not?

Ingredients:

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♦   6 x onions (4 brown, 2 red), cut into wedges

♦   2 x red capsicum, slivered

♦   1 x green capsicum, slivered (optional)

♦   7 x tomatoes, diced

♦   1 x eggplant, cut into batons (optional)

♦   2 – 3 tbl vegetable oil for frying (unfortunately I had run out so all I had was extra virgin olive oil. I took the punt, but recommend pure olive oil / vegetable oil as it is better for cooking with)

♦   1 tsp Vegeta

 Method:

1) Chop the onions into wedges first and then after you’ve dried your eyes, heat a heavy based pot to medium-high heat and sauté the onion in oil, until it gets soft. I’d estimate around 5 minutes (or however long it will take you to chop up 3 capsicum into 1cm slivers- do the capsicum while you wait).

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2) Add in your capsicum. Leave to cook and meld with the sweet onion flavours while you chop up your eggplant.

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3) Add in your eggplant and then let it cook uncovered while you chop up your tomatoes. By now, its starting to smell really good.

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4) Dice your tomatoes and be thankful you wore a red top as a tomato explodes on you. Once diced, add to the pot.

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5) Here is where you can start cleaning the kitchen and then make a cup of tea. It’s going to cook for a while. Keep stirring occasionally. It needs to cook uncovered and with a slight simmer so that the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates and the mix starts to thicken.

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SHHH: Now, I’m going to reveal the Croatian cook’s secret weapon… Vegeta.

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Vegeta (pronouced Ve-get-a, and not Vag-eet-a) is a vegetable stock that my Mum (and I’m pretty sure, all other Croatian mums and bakas) put into everything. Even Asian dishes. Yep, in our household, stir fry is Cro-Asian (Like what I did there?). It adds a secret flavour kick.

6) Add some Vegeta to your Sataraš. Warning: Do not add Vegeta and salt. It’s one or the other as Vegeta is salty. I went with a teaspoon and then let it sit for a while before tasting and agreeing this was all that was needed. Taste as you go along and add a little bit at a time if needed. The mix will get saltier as the juices evaporate so I find it’s best to do this closer to the end of cooking.

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7) Leave your Sataraš to cook until it thickens and resembles a relish. For us this took around 30 minutes on medium heat. What you are after is a mix that wont drip from a spoon. The flavours will have melded with a delicious sweetness from the onion, capsicum and tomato.

8) When you are done and the mix has cooled, you can spoon into a sterilised glass jar to take to your picnic!

Sataras

We used Sataraš as a complement to our Centennial Park Sausage vs. Sausage Dog picnic – it was delicious inside a crusty baguette with freshly cooked gourmet sausages from Victor Churchill.

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“Dobar Tek”

(Croatian for “Bon Appetit”)

L&M