I get the feeling that it’s not quite cool to love cabbage. I mean, there’s the trendy purple sprouting broccoli, showy rainbow collards and the ultra-chic kale, but you don’t really hear about artisanal cabbages, do you? And that’s a little sad. It always strikes me as somewhat underappreciated and overlooked; a steady and consistent performer, but hardly ever invited to be the star of the show.
Except, of course, in coleslaw.
Coleslaw is one of those mad concoctions that has the rather unexpected capacity to blow your culinary socks off. It’s a riot of colours and textures, a positive festival of flavours. Homemade coleslaw is a world away from its commercial counterpart, which tends to be a damp and colourless collection of mystery vegetables swimming in a sort of mayonnaise soup. If you have the chance, it’s worth the extra effort.
Since it’s so often served with meat (like the weekend’s pulled pork), I think it particularly important that it be able cut through that rich density with a bright, crisp zingyness.
This mayo-free coleslaw is all zesty freshness and isn’t remotely heavy. You can serve it as a traditional side dish, but in my opinion it also stands on its own as a delicately balanced, intensely crunchy salad.
For the slaw:
4 x spring cabbage leaves, finely sliced into ribbons (you can use a quarter of a white cabbage if you prefer)
Quarter red cabbage, finely sliced into ribbons
Half a red onion, very finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
Juice of half a lemon
For the dressing:
4 tbsp olive oil
Juice of a whole lemon
1 tbsp honey
Half tbsp wholegrain mustard
To take the punch out of the onion, squeeze half a lemon over it and leave it to soak as you get on with the other ingredients. You can skip this bit if you’re fond of the taste.
In a large bowl, toss all your salad ingredients.
In a separate bowl, whisk the salad dressing ingredients together (you can also shake in a jar). The juice output of lemons varies, but you’ll know when you’ve got it right because it will form a light, citrusy emulsion. Season with a pinch of salt, or to taste.
Pour the dressing over the coleslaw and mix well. I tend to like mixing it ahead of time so the cabbage has time to lose a little of its rawness. The dressed or naked salad keeps well overnight.