It’s a zing thing

A.k.a what to do with a red cabbage and other winter veg that doesn’t involve steaming, roasting or staring at them the fridge!

Living in a temperate climate means there are limits to what I can grow at home. Of course if I was a Victorian with a wedge of money, a country pile and minions a plenty I could grow more than I do. But as the astute of you have noticed, I’m not.

What I can’t grow I try and buy locally, I try and support the farmers in Sussex and Kent and the wider UK. If I can’t source my food locally the next step is mainland Europe (all the while trying to stick to the seasons), after that the world is my proverbial oyster. Living in a temperate climate means growing rice or pomegranates, bananas or coconuts is out of the bounds of average gardeners like me.

Red Cabbage trimmed

I realise I could avoid these foods, make a decision not to buy food that is imported, but my 21st century tastebuds are developed and acclimatised to fabulous world flavours. My basics come from nearby and my ‘exotics’ from far and wide. It’s called compromise. But is citrus a compromise or a necessity?

Citrus can be grown here, but needs care and attention, time and space – things I don’t have in abundance. I think life without oranges, lemons and limes would lack zing; their flavours,  goodness, their acid sweet sour in the mouth citrus-pow! means I eat them in some form or other on a daily basis. Mid-winter fixes of oranges from Spain or Morocco, lemons from Italy and limes, well limes are in their own special category for me. That combination of sweet-sharp and without which so many of the worlds cuisines would be out of the reach of my kitchen.

For the gardeners amongst us there is a perfect circle here; the discarded lemon and grapefruit skins are perfect for using in the garden as slug traps, failing that in the compost bin they go and around the garden life cycle they go.

I’m with Jimmy Buffett when it comes to limes “If life gives you limes make margaritas.”  Of course he could have made a winter salad dressing too, but that doesn’t have the ring of comic cleverness about it does it? So without further ado let me introduce you to a favourite winter salad dressing

USE_Red Cabbage Salad_3

Classic South East Asian salad dressing

  • The juice of one lime
  • One tablespoon of fish sauce or soy sauce
  • One teaspoon of palm sugar or granulated sugar

All the ingredients are combined and mixed in a small bowl. And when I’m ready to eat I pour it over my salad, a bit at a time and gently mix it in.

My winter salads are a mixture of a quarter of red cabbage finely sliced, a grated carrot, a sharp apple cored and grated, a small piece of swede or half a turnip again thinly sliced or grated and finally a thinly sliced shallot and invariably a chopped green chilli or a sprinkle of fresh coriander. This makes a generous 2 person serving.

Extras can include a handful of beansprouts, a handful of sliced green beans from the freezer, thinly shredded green cabbage, finely sliced pieces of kohl rabi, or a handful of fresh coriander leaves.

I eat this salad on its own for lunch, with egg fried rice, as a side dish or a starter with a Thai Green Curry, with a piece of grilled fish, in fact this salad works well with most Asian influenced food. Best of all these winter salads give me that sweet-sour flavour kick so reminiscent of South East Asia and an excuse to cut open a lime and squeeze……margarita anyone?

USE_Red Cabbage Salad_2

All of which makes me wonder what you couldn’t “live” without, in the kitchen that is ?!



  • lemon would be my first pick … we use it every day … sometimes starting with lemon ‘tea’ … then lemon juice on the salad at lunch time and loads of other tasty alternatives both sweet and spicy for dinner … we have lemons in summer and limes in winter … both invaluable! Your salad looks fabulous, so colourful, and I can imagine the zingy lime in the dressing 🙂 Happy New Year Claire!

  • So, No oil in the dressing at all? Sounds like some great flavors!
    As for things I Can’t Do Without (that come from afar) – Olive Oil! There’s some small production in the US, but Far FAR from the East Coast…might as well get the Italian 🙂

    • Nope no oil ! thinking about it, it makes a nice change to leave it out.
      You know I thought you guys would be wallowing in olive oil, don’t know why….. having said that I’ve been using Rape Seed Oil grown in Sussex as an alternative recently and very nice it is too.

  • Difficult question but I guess lemons are very dear to me too (among many other things, we’re quite spoilt, aren’t we). Your salad looks tasty…I have a lemon tree which spends nearly all year on the terrace apart from a few days when it’s gets too frosty but I’m far from being self sufficient. To buy food that’s in season and combine it with the odd bit flown in from somewhere is a fair compromise, I think.

    • I’ve heard lemon trees can be a bit fussy so your experience gives me heart Annette, but if I had to pick one it would be a lime tree – that way I could have fresh lime for my G7T 🙂

  • We’re still eating lemons that we bought over from our tree in Spain – so although they’ve travelled far, they came with us! Definintely an essential. Chilis are pretty important in my kitchen as is a glass of wine for the chef 😉 So…no enormous heated greenhouse, a walled Victorian kitchen garden and a team of gardners for you?! I think you do pretty amazingly and I love your salad and dressing.

    • Your like me I take our garlic and pumpkins to France 🙂 With you on the chillies, although most years I do manage to grow a substantial crop. But wine …. now that is compulsory….. as you know 🙂

  • Your salad looks wonderful! Citrus is it for me, too. Beyond that, my own winter tore serve me pretty well with carrots and celery from the store and beans and grains from the co-op in dry storage. I love the flavor of apple with carrots! Thanks, Claire!

    • Oh I love winter food too Cindy what with all the roots and stored bits from the summer, and this year I even managed to grow a reasonable crop of celery, which after the first frosts did taste great. Here’s to winter food in all it’s colours and guises.

  • That salad dressing sounds lovely! Not to mention the salad itself. That wouldn’t be a typical salad in my house. I should try it to shake things up a bit! What couldn’t I live without? I’m going to say garlic. I didn’t like that most of the garlic available to me is coming from China – pretty darn far! So that is one of the main reasons I grow it. oh, and avocados. We love them! 😉 Dana

    • Hi Dana, I try and mix the salads up a bit – I get bored with mayonnaise based ones easily. And don’t get me started on imported Chinese garlic – dry and flavourless are two things that spring to mind. I even spotted Chinese grown garlic in French supermarkets last year…. I think the world is going nuts! Thankfully you and I are lucky and we can grow our own.

  • And what would a cosmopolitan be without fresh lime juice? A couple of those and life is ever so good with or without your delicious salad. Cheers, Claire!

  • Your photos have me craving a bowl of fresh, crisp salad, which is no bad thing after the excesses of Christmas! I’d have to agree with you about lemons and limes – pretty much essential in the kitchen… and I don’t like to run out of nutmeg or dried chillies either.

    • I don’t use a lot of nutmeg…. I do have some great nutmeg fabulous to use, but as I say I don’t use a lot so that now has me wondering why !!

  • Your salad sounds so refreshing Claire. I would find it hard to sacrifice my winter oranges and clementines too… and lemons are essential to life, aren’t they? (Although lemon balm and lemon verbena are alternatives I suppose). I would have to say that the one food I would really not want to do without is tomatoes. I use tomato paste, passata and tinned tomatoes in so many different dishes, and then the fresh ones in summer with mozzarella…. 😉

    • Ahhh tomatoes, we still have a couple of tomato sauces left in the freezer…… and months to go before I even sniff a fresh tomato! That’s a tough one Cathy! and then you added to it by mentioning mozzarella…… might as well mention avocados while we’re on the subject 🙂

  • Claire, do you know that you can make red cabbage stop bleeding color – just rinse it in very cold water. Your salad looks fantastic .. and so vibrant. Just love red cabbage slaw – and this dressing I will try out next time. Thanks for sharing .. Beautiful and tasty post again.

  • When I was pregnant, funnily enough, the dressing you describe is about the only thing I could eat to make food more exciting!!

    Anyway, what could I not live without in the kitchen? Mm, onions, though trying to keep to seasonal, local food, I have learned to substitute with leeks and spring onions, and when all else fails, onion salt.

    Happy winter salad eating!

    • Onions, definitely have to have onions. Mind you a friend of mine has an intolerance to all the onion family……. that’s a really tough one I think.

  • Interestingly, this is the sort of salad I think I would make in summer and fall. For my climate I could use some fresh ingredients like cabbage, carrot, shallot, and coriander in it. I can’t grow anything this time of year. 😦 It looks delicious and I think I will love the dressing. I may just whip up some tonight, it looks so fresh!

    • I hanker after fresh salads in winter and I guess it’s my way of getting a salad fix and avoiding the standard mayonnaise type dressings! But definitely in summer with fresh veggies and coriander, YUM!

      • O.k., so I made your dressing and salad a couple of nights ago and it was delicious! The only thing I am curious about is if you ever experienced the lime juice irritating your lips. The next morning my lips were a little irritated and I didn’t know why but when I finished the leftover salad with a little dressing for lunch, I realized the dressing was irritating my lips and I guess it must have been from so much fresh lime juice? I don’t have allergies that I know of… Have you ever experience anything like that.

        • OMG, no I haven’t come across that before! I wonder if limes vary in their juiciness and so the ratio of lime to soy to sugar is different. I’m sorry to hear about this. and the next time I make it I will measure the lime juice to see how much I get. Other than that I can’t think of anything. I hope you are safe and warm – I hear the weather in the states is pretty ferocious at the moment x

  • When I was in my teens my parents had a couple of tubs with ponderosa lemon trees in them. We used to watch the flowers bloom, my dad would pollinate them and then we’d watch for the fruits to develop, grow and ripen. I don’t remember my mom ever using the juice for anything though. These days, I don’t grow even that.

    The salad is lovely. I wonder if a drizzle of toasted sesame oil would make it even better.

    • I just looked up the Ponderosa Lemon – ” The ponderosa lemon originated in roughly 1887, and is believed to come from a chance seedling grown in Hagerstown, Maryland.” fascinating!
      And yes toasted sesame oil definitely works well – but I wouldn’t use fish sauce as well, I think it would clash, but the soy sauce would be good 🙂

  • It would be very difficult for me to cook or bake without salt and some type of oil or butter. Even though I live where the “Mediterranean” type climate allows for a nine month (or longer) growing season I also purchase coffee, tea, chocolate, cheese, bananas, ginger, pineapples, coconut and other food items not produced locally. I buy locally produced food when I can. We live in a time of strong global commerce and I have no desire to be militant about “buying local”. There are so many new foods and flavors to explore I refuse to limit myself and my desire to cook creatively!

    • We sound like we have similar thoughts on the subject of buying local Deb! I say three cheers to creativity in the kitchen!
      I once heard a chef on the radio programme Desert Island Disks and his luxury to take was salt and pepper – without either food can be very bland. Hope you have a greta week !

  • I add garlic and a little bit of ginger to your salad dressing…
    what a great post…
    Thank you for sharing and reminding me I need limes for my dressing LOLs…
    Have a good weekend!
    Take Care…You Matter…

    • Thank you Maryrose for your kind words. I know what you mean about adding garlic and ginger, I use lots in the kitchen too! Hope you have a great week ahead

  • Such a pretty looking salad Claire, and the dressing sounds lovely and simple. I couldn’t do without lemons either. In addition to cooking and baking with them, we’re very big on ‘lemon water’ to drink in our house, along with hot water with lemon, ginger and honey for treating colds. Citrus in general would be hugely missed, and I kind of rely on bananas as an all purpose superfood, especially for my kids.

  • Hello Claire! Left a note for you on Roger’s blog to look up JO’s fusion salad [from 15-minute meals] of a mix of red and white cabbage – ’tis good!! We have a large number of good olive oil producers in Australia now, but I ‘accidentally’ bought some rice bran oil awhile back and now I would not return to rapeseed/canola – beautiful both for salads and cooking when ‘real’ olive oil not available!!

    • Thanks for that Eha, I went and checked it out 🙂 I “discovered” rapeseed oil a couple of years ago, lovely it is too – plus it comes from a farm not to far from me.

  • When we lived in Florida, one of our friends was a chef originally from Italy. One day I asked him about the lovely taste in a dish and he said lime juice was used. He said he always used it in place of lemon juice or vinegar in recipes calling for either.

    • Interesting Karen, I’ve heard a lot about Meyer Lemons, and it seems they are a bit like Limes in flavour – although I’m not sure, as we don’t have them here. I love lime added to nearly grilled fish or shellfish – just lifts it out of the ordinary

  • Happy new year Claire! Gorgeous-looking salad. Love the addition of beanshoots. Very curious about discarded lemon and grapefruit skins being used as slug traps – are they asphyxiated by the sour fumes? Or is the juice poisonous to them? Do tell. It’s slug and snail-arama around here.

    • You know what I’m going to have to go away and look that one up!!! My brain (or rather my feeble memory) isn’t working….. back later 🙂

  • Bacon.

    Oh, were we speaking of garden produce only? I might have to go with summer squash…or filet beans…or carrots…there isn’t a limit, right? 😉

    • Bacon, absolutely bacon is on THE LIST! Mind you having said that I haven’t had any for ages, I only buy it from the butchers (proper bacon, no added water and crap) and now I NEED a bacon butty!!!

      • I have bacon just about every day, at least once. I keep hearing that someday it will catch up to me, but when it’s paired with Brussels sprouts and garlic, or kale and eggs, I think it balances out 😉

  • Claire, I really love the 3 ingredient lime salad dressing. It is just what I have been looking for for my winter salads. No oil and a bit tangy with crunchy cabbage. Great flavor profile. Happy New Year.

  • Delicious salad and dressing, Claire. You mentioned it to me previously when we were discussing kohlrabi! I think it is a delicious combination that has such versatility with a wide variety of winter vegetables. I believe it is necessary to compromise and take advantage of wonderful tastes and varieties that cannot be obtained locally. In our Southern California climate we have so much available and yet I can’t do without bananas, and they are imported! I think we just need to do the best we can and be responsible to fully appreciate the way we have access. With as much as is available in our part of the world I admit I’m a little critical of people who don’t fully appreciate fruit and vegetables locally grown. With all you do to support your local farming communities as well as the care and tending of the allotment, I think buying citrus and anything you desire from abroad is well warranted! 🙂

    • Bananas are imported ?! Ours come from the Caribbean and generally I avoid them as they are utterly tasteless……. but I realise how great they are especially for young kids and easy quick snack food!

  • Isn’t it funny, we grow lemons and limes and basil so easily that we take those things for granted, yet berries of any sort cost an absolute fortune, but can be picked off your hedgerows for free! Your salad looks delicious and very summery – nice to think of you having that even though the weather is cold and ominous.

    I’m interested that you live in a temperate climate – I always thought I lived in a temperate climate, but obviously our ideas of what the word means are very different! 🙂

  • Claire, I’ve just been wiki-ing St Leonards on Sea and Sussex – how fabulous that you live in the sunniest places in the UK! Do you get frosts and snow there? I always assumed our climates were very different, but maybe they’re not, which is perhaps why we sometimes seem to be growing similar things in our gardens (at different times of the year, of course!).. 🙂

    • Interesting reading Celia, reading up a bit I’m correct to say we are temperate in climate (i.e. not polar and not tropical) but the difference really is that we are also maritime and off a large landmass…. i.e. affected by the likes of the Gulf Stream which keeps us warm and wet 🙂
      Looking at the link Sydney is definitely hotter and hotter for longer too. On the coast here we do get the odd frost not very often but we do get them, and some years we get snow. But move 5 or 10 miles in land from here and they get very heavy frosts, so you see how localised our weather patterns can be! And people wonder why we talk about the weather so much 🙂
      But you are right about our gardens, you can probably grow some things more easily than I, and I would need a greenhouse for others…. but generally we have heaps in common 🙂 Happy days!

  • So pretty for such a simple salad! I have my list of can’t do withouts too–coffee would be #1, plus chocolate, citrus and then my buying club gets fresh pomegranates every Nov and Dec. This year a lot of canning has extended my local eating. It was pretty grueling last fall, but is exciting now!

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