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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THE HYDE PARK LUNCH BREAK PICNIC

Do you stop for lunch?

I have to admit, I am someone who frequently takes my lunch break at my desk in front of my computer. I multitask eating with responding to emails, paying bills or doing other personal admin tasks (and, if I’m honest, that turns into watching YouTube delights like tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos!!). It’s all under the guise of trying to be “productive” and get s#*t done, but how productive is it really?

Research conducted by ING Direct last year found that I am not alone. Working Aussies are increasingly eating lunch at their desks.

This is contrary to advice from professionals that have found it’s absolutely beneficial to take a lunch break. In fact, it’s a proven way to increase productivity and help sustain energy levels and focus into the afternoon. It’s also adds balance to the day to counter stress. If you’re one of those people who says, “I’m too busy to stop for lunch”, google “benefits of a lunch break” for some science behind why you need to step away from the desk.

With that in mind, we decided to swap stale air-conditioning for fresh air and fluorescent light for sunshine on our next lunch break and enjoy some time out in the park instead.

There are some added benefits to this lunch break picnic strategy: Sunshine tops up vitamin D levels, necessary for maintaining bone health and wards against disease, and also, it generally makes you feel happy. In addition, exposure to green environments, like parks, has been proven to improve health, increase wellbeing, and reduce stress. (You can read about it here).

Ergo, the Hyde Park Lunch Break Picnic. A wellbeing all-rounder.

Here’s our itinerary:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     David Jones Foodhall, Market Street

Coffee:   Metro St James, Elizabeth Street

Picnic:   Hyde Park, Elizabeth Street

FOOD:

DAVID JONES FOODHALL

65-77 Market Street, Sydney

David Jones Foodhall is a gourmet emporium located under the DJ’s mens section on Market Street.

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The Foodhall showcases fresh produce and finest food from Australia and around the world. It has a wine bar, oyster bar, panini bar, cheese and antipasto bar, noodle bar, grill bar, sushi bar, espresso bar and juice bar. It’s un-bar-lievable! 🙂

If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious lunch, there is an abundant range of gorgeous and enticing salads on offer:

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Plus, you can pick up some fresh fruit for an afternoon snack:

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For our Hyde Park Lunch Break Picnic, we couldn’t go past the fresh Vietnamese satay chicken & young coconut rice paper rolls and Peking duck pancakes from the cutely decorated MissChu mini-tuckshop, famous for its Vietnamese takeaway.

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As you can see from the bag below, MissChu is described as “Queen of Rice Paper Rolls”, and I’d have to agree. The rolls are fresh and tasty and came with a lovely spicy dipping sauce to complement the satay flavour. Oh, and the Peking duck pancakes? Yes, my only complaint was that we should have ordered more!

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Because we’re all for raising our endorphins today, we also got a small treat to go with the coffee we planned to order.

In my first full time job as a sprightly 21 year old, I worked in a building close to DJs. I learnt a lot in that job, including that David Jones Foodhall makes the best chocolate covered fruit. Ever.

There’s a huge range of all kinds of delicious fruit lavishly dipped in milk, dark or white chocolate including strawberries, figs, bananas and dates.

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I know we are trying to be a bit healthier on our lunch break, but it’s still fruit, right? We deliberated a while before deciding on dipped strawberries in milk chocolate with crushed pistachio nuts, dipped strawberries in dark chocolate and slivered almonds and a chocolate covered fig.

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You will see the huge range of chocolate covered stuff as soon as you enter from the stairs on Market Street. I dare you to resist these on your way out.

The other great thing about the Foodhall is that you can also pick up items for dinner, should you need to, so it saves you time running around after work. There is a range of take home items, like fresh pasta, and prepared meals, as well as fresh veggies, meat and fish. It’s multitasking at its finest!

For more details, see the David Jones Foodhall website here.

COFFEE:

METRO ST JAMES

110 Elizabeth Street Sydney (just behind St James station)
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Metro St James has been described as a “Parisian bistro meets New York cafe”, due to its French influence and location just behind St James train station. It’s situated in an elegant sandstone building which has maximised its pretty outlook over the leafy Hyde Park and St Mary’s Cathedral.

I first heard of this cafe when they ran a promotion last year where you could pay for your coffee with a kiss. The kiss had to be real, staff weren’t involved and it was all designed to promote love. How very French! The promotion is no longer running, but the coffee will warm your heart nonetheless. Merci, Metro St James xx.

PICNIC:

HYDE PARK

Elizabeth Street (near Market Street), Sydney

Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park and a tranquil setting in the middle of Sydney’s CBD. It’s a popular escape for office workers who want some fresh air or a quick siesta under the huge, leafy trees.

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Park Street splits Hyde Park in half and the two sections are officially referred to as Hyde Park North and Hyde Park South. We picnicked in Hyde Park North this time, as it’s within easy distance of the David Jones Foodhall and Metro St James.

There are several monuments that stand guard in Hyde Park North, the most notable of which is the Archibald Fountain, with its commanding bronze Apollo.

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The fountain is in an ideal location to enjoy some of Sydney’s tourist sites. To the left of the fountain, you have a view of the Sydney Tower (or Centerpoint Tower), which is the tallest building in Sydney.

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To the right of the fountain, you overlook St Mary’s Cathedral, an English-style gothic church and one of Sydney’s most treasured historic buildings offering a unique space of solace and prayer within the bustling city.

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Some of the beautiful gardens within Hyde Park

We set up our picnic so that we could fully appreciate the view on each side.

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Taking an important call from the “Editor in Chief” – aka my mum 🙂

Our MissChu rice paper rolls and Peking duck pancakes were delicious and just enough so that we felt satisfied but not sluggish.

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The David Jones Foodhall chocolate covered strawberries were absolutely necessary and completely worth it.

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As soon as we found our spot on the grass in Hyde Park, we already felt more relaxed and refreshed.

We watched kids shriek with delight and chase giant bubbles made by a busker.

We saw people going about their business and realised the world doesn’t really revolve around us today.

We had real and genuine interaction with laughs and hugs instead of sending smiley faces and “xox’s” via email.

We felt our senses awaken by inhaling the crisp air and feeling the sunshine warm our backs.

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We left feeling happier and more human and ready to take on the rest of the day.

Facilities

→  ToiletsPublic toilets are available.

→  Parking / Transport: There is parking in the Domain Car Park, but we suggest leaving the car at home and making use of the train as Museum and St James train stations are beneath the park. Bus services are also available, as the park is bordered by several major roads.

→  Bike: You can’t really do any hard core cycling in the park, so bike parking is available.

→  Dogs: There aren’t any off-leash areas, but I saw a few dogs being walked on a lead.

See the City of Sydney website here for more details.

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See how fun getting out on your lunch break can be? We spotted these people dancing!

Final note

As someone who has worked long hours, I understand that taking a lunch break can feel a bit self-indulgent when you have deadlines pressing, clients chasing you, or a huge task to complete. A lunch break picnic may not be feasible or realistic every day. At the very least, get outside for 15 minutes to get some air and re-centre.

If you’re normally desk-bound or running about doing personal errands, try once a week (at least) to lock in some quality time for a lunch break that you will actually enjoy – not some half hearted attempt at your desk or on the run, which ends up being counterproductive.

A lunch break picnic is a more fulfilling option and the fresh air and sunshine will stand you in good stead to face the rest of the afternoon. It’s also far less stressful than claiming a sticky table at a bustling and overcrowded food court. Time seems to move slower too, so even 30 minutes of actual rest will feel longer than an hour of running around or online shopping ‘al-desko’.

Invite your colleague, friend or partner along, or if you need some time out, take a good, fun book or magazine and some nice, deep breaths.

We’d love to hear if a lunch break picnic makes a difference to your day. Are you more focused? Less stressed? More productive? Happier? Please also tag us on your Instagram pics, and we’ll share with our community: @thepicnicpress #thepicnicpress.

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Next week on The Picnic Press: We set up our picnic blanket in the beautiful town of Berry, on the NSW South Coast.

See you then! Now back to work…

L&M

P.S If you love Mark’s photos, check out his other work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.