For the love of slaw!

“We’re going for a walk down in Harris if your up for it?” I was asked last week, this was on Sunday the 14th. Well, why not? I said to myself, bearing in mind that this was the day before rejoining the ship for the next three weeks so this last day at home is very important and treasured for not just myself but my loving, caring and paaaattttiiiieeennnt wife, as she is looking forward to a “break” as well in the next weeks. This might sound extreme and hard to believe but the facts are, this is what she told me and to be honest I completely understand. So being that I don’t get the chance to do this very often, my hold-all was packed with the essentials, not knowing what the April season would bring in weather wise, regardless of the weather, rain or shine, it is stunning down there. I had my hat, balaclava, walking boots, water, boiled sweets which were commented on being granny sweets, and spare socks, unfortunately I forgot to bring a spare pair of trainers but did have some of the 15 cake that was made the day before which came as a comforting delight to our small group.

Now as I start writing this I can tell you now that I haven’t even ventured up the Clisham, though keen on walking and being that my last great achievement was climbing up Suilven, how I will never know all I remember is we went slow and steady the only almost similarities from these experiences is the pain that I felt in my legs.

Our Sunday walk would take us along what is known as the Postman’s walk with a little detour to Molinginish where the remains of the little village are still visible. Every part came with a stunning view which ever way we turned and made me think of how I have never heard of the Postmans walk, that little village and all the other gems that Harris and Lewis have to offer and as for the granny sweets they were just the little treat to energise and help us along the way. Three flavours in the packet – Bha ha iad gu math blasta!

At the end of the walk we were all quite hungry so decided to get a bite to eat and be refreshed. I had dinner sorted for when I got home so I had sat with a very nice warming Americano as it was said, yet still asked if I wanted milk…really? Just call it black coffee and be done with it, as the others ordered a meal.

There must have been a maximum of four strands of something being held together which in some point in its life might have been classed as mayonnaise but was perhaps exposed to elements like air and heat for some time which in the end we concluded might have been some kind of slaw which has prompted me to write about this side/salad product and have wanted to for some time, as it has been playing on my mind not just because I have an excuse of what was served that day, but I would like to get a better understanding for people’s love of this side item, as it seems to be served on the side of most “hip” meals or the fact that you can be charged a few quid for a thimble full of what is essentially crap.

So what would we class as a nice slaw? They all come in varying consistencies, vegetable thickness or size. Most of the time they are coated in mayonnaise which we know is literally oil almost defeating any chance a vegetable might have in offering you its benefits. The fad of purple slaw has been upon us for a while now with the addition of the red cabbage. OK, so red cabbage perhaps offers a little more nutritional value, we then go and add a heavy based oil product to it kind of defeats the purpose.

The meaning of Coleslaw comes from the Dutch word Koolsla which means cabbage salad, Kool meaning cabbage and sla, salad. The word cabbage is believed to have replaced the word Kool in the 15th century.

There is a book from 1770 called The Sensible Cook: Dutch food ways in the old and new world and talks of a recipe with thin strips of cabbage mixed with melted butter, vinegar and oil to cold cabbage salad, this has been turned into what we know as a salad with mixed vegetables, bound together with either dressing, sour cream or mayonnaise and the only thing we know is that the only consistency that comes with this recipe is cabbage.

Now mayonnaise is though to have been invented in 1756 by a French chef of the Duke de Richelieu when the Duke was defeating the British at Port Mahon, the chef was busy cooking a victory meal that had a sauce made with cream and eggs. It’s fascinating how at some point in time the two recipes amalgamate, with one old recipe and one relatively young.

I would like the vegetables to stand out in this salad. The vegetables will be more palatable and yet hold a crisp bite. It will also keep for 2-3 days with out going watery. There is no real hard recipe to follow, just add what you want to add. This slaw is made with the crown of the cabbage, resulting in nice thin shreds. With the remaining cabbage, why not a dish of cabbage and bacon. If your feeling adventurous, some sauerkraut or kimchi, both red and white cabbage work well.

I like to chop the vegetables by hand. I like to think that shows them a little more respect by showcasing all the vegetables. It doesn’t matter what your knife skills are like. Once all the vegetables are prepared, place them in a colander over a bowl and add a sprinkle of salt and mix well. Leave for a couple of hours and you will see some liquid in the bottom of the bowl. After a couple of hours squeeze as much moisture out of the vegetables as you can.

To bind the slaw together I like to use yogurt and creme fraiche at a ratio of 1/2 and 1/2. A drizzle of rice wine (one of my staple dry store goods and should be in everyone’s larder) is added for a touch more tartness. For those who calorie count, although creme fraiche is classed as healthier and lower calorie alternative to fresh cream and less fat its calories still somewhere in the high region. With yogurt and all the benefits that come with it, making it ideal.  Both are a good choice to impart some creaminess and tartness to our slaw and to be honest as guilt free as I would like it to be, again I believe everything in moderation to be key. You could also make it with a vinaigrette and the addition of fresh herbs is also an option. Light, colour full, crisp and delicious.

I’d love to see what you create! Upload a picture to Instagram and tag me at @TheNiseachChef or use the hashtag #TheNiseachChef

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