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