A big beautiful slaw is one of my go-to salads during summer, it’s fresh, tasty and most importantly dead easy. Whipping up one of these bad boys isn’t so much a matter of making a salad as playing a game of ‘what can I julienne’ which, for a clumsy, hurried and often inattentive cook is akin to a game of Russian Roulette with fingertips as the currency. The whole experience is fraught with digit threatening danger and it’s always interesting to see if I can get to the end of the task without inflicting serious self harm. Truth be told I kind of like the risk factor, it makes me feel badass.
The great thing about a slaw is its versatility, there’s no real rules about what goes in and you can pretty much make one work from whatever is in your fridge. With that in mind I wouldn’t really call this a recipe as much as a list of suggested ingredients. I like to have a massive mix of julienned, shredded or finely chopped veggies as a starting point then add some sort of fruit for a fresh flavour contrast, some nuts or seeds for extra crunch and finish it off with a shitload of fresh herbs and a tangy citrus based dressing.
I haven’t given any quantities here because I tend to make a my salads big enough to feed half a developing nation and it really doesn’t matter how much of what you use, the goal is really just to create a gorgeous rainbow mix of flavours and colours so feel free to get all wild and crazy on it with this one.
Get this stuff:
Red or green cabbage
Kale or other hardy greens – lettuce is a bit too wet delicate for the task and will just end up limp and soggy
Red or spring onion
Mango – green or ripe
Apple cider vinegar
Rice malt syrup, honey or coconut sugar
Garlic – crushed, minced or finely chopped
Chilli – dried seeds or fresh and finely chopped
Mixed toasted seeds – pepitas, sunflower, sesame, poppy seeds
Finely chopped cashews, almonds or peanuts
Heaps of herbs
Fresh mint and coriander
Do this with it:
If you’re game enough to own a julienne slicer it will make the task a shitload faster and easier although of course that all depends on how much you back your skills and how much you like your fingertips. A good sharp knife will do the trick but will make the task a bit more arduous but great and inexpensive solution is a julienne peeler which you can pick up for a few bucks at a kitchen store, a decent supermarket or food selling joint. Whatever weapon you choose the mission is simple – get busy shredding and slicing your chosen veggies til you can’t shred and slice no more.
Next select a fruit element and do the same with it. Why fruit you may ask? Well for a start it’s fucking delicious and that should be reason enough in itself, but there’s also a dietary payoff to it. By including some fruit with your main meal you’re going to be getting a little bit of sweetness without a massive fructose overload which will help satisfy your sweet tooth and stop you going in search of post-meal treats that threaten to undo all your good work. Trust me, try it, it’s fucking genius.
Next, herbs. Heaps and heaps of fresh chopped herbs will make this slaw next level. I love a mix of coriander and mint but I know coriander is a divisive one, people tend to love or hate it. My mother is in the latter camp and very vocal about it. If you work in a restaurant you better pray no tiny particle of it ever crosses her plate or you, and everyone within a 500m radius will know about it.
So, whatever your herb stance choose those you want to use, chop them finely and mix a whole lot through the slaw saving a handful to top the finished product before serving.
Now what you’ll have is a big, beautiful big bowl of colours, flavours and textures but it will also be a pretty naked looking dry mix just crying out to be dressed up pretty. I tend to go for zingy asian inspired flavours with my dressing to keep it light and refreshing and frankly nothing like that store bought mayonnaise drenched nastiness.
A combo of lemon and lime juice is lovely and fresh, fish sauce adds a great salty layer to the flavour and apple cider vinegar adds nice tang. You’ll also want a bit of sweetness to balance the salt and acidity so I often use a bit of rice malt syrup, honey or coconut sugar. Garlic is essential in pretty much all my savoury meals so chuck a bit of that in for good measure too. Next you need a bit of oil to give it a bit of body; my favourite for this brew is sesame oil for it’s delicious nutty flavour, or alternatively if you want a thicker dressing tahini or nut butter are an awesome addition.
I use a blender to mix it all well, largely because I’m a lazy fucker but giving it all a good shake in a jar will do just as well and you’ll also score a bonus arm workout. Again, quantities are pretty variable as it will all depend on your palate and whether you like it more tart, acidic, sweet or nutty but a good starting point is about a tablespoon of each then you can taste and adjust from there to suit. Once you’ve got the balance right pour a generous amount over your slaw give it a proper mix up to get those fab flavours all the way through. You can bugger about with a spoon but getting hands on will do the best job.
Then finally we come to the crunch. Adding some nuts or seeds to your salad is also dual purpose, again deliciousness but equally importantly whacking a healthy dose of good fats into your veggie laden meal will substantially up the satiety factor keeping you feeling fuller for longer as well as fuelling your body and brain with essential nutrients for overall wellbeing and gorgeous skin and hair. Damn straight, your food really can make you pretty and smart!
One of my favourite additions is a mix of pepitas, sunflower, sesame and poppy seeds tossed in a pan with some soy or tamari until browed for an extra roasty, toasty, salty flavour pop. Another great option is finely chopped nuts. Now in my opinion raw peanuts are nasty little buggers so if you’re using them I’d suggest either them either dry roasting in the oven first or quickly tossing the chopped nuts in a fry pan until brown. Giving cashews or almonds the same toasting treatment will also up the ace factor but these guys are also pretty damn good raw.
To finish the job off simply throw a generous handful or two of whatever nuts or seeds you like over the top along with and the rest of the chopped herbs. I also like a bit of heat from some chopped fresh chilli or dried chilli seeds but again, this isn’t for everyone so if you’re feeding a crowd it’s a wise move to serve the spice on the side so there’s no tears or tantrums.
This makes a fantastic crowd feeding side dish as it is but if you want to make a meal out of it one of my favourite meat additions is poached, shredded chicken breast served cold for a light summery option. Alternatively, roasted pork tenderloin slices or stir-fried beef strips thrown over the top both pair brilliantly with the asian influence to build an easy one bowl dinner like this guy below.
Leftovers are not generally a thing that happen in our house but if you’re not such a salad destroying freak as me and you happen to have some extra it makes bloody good lunch the next day. The veggies are usually hardy enough to survive in the dressing without going soggy and the flavours seem to improve when they’ve had a night in the fridge to make friends.