Middle class coleslaw

I am a terrible snob. I’m not proud of this shortcoming but since there’s no point in denying it so I may as well be bold. I know I am a terrible snob because I once told someone that his mother made white trash coleslaw. In my defence, he said (and did) much, much worse to me. And that coleslaw was disgusting – tinned pineapple, cabbage, carrot and condensed milk dressing – so I don’t think I was completely out of line. Plus, his mother used to look at me like I was something she’d trodden on. Harrumph.

Anyway, that’s all ancient history and I’m over it, truly. But earlier this evening, when rustling up an impromptu salad to go with the remainder of Monday night’s roast chicken, I realised I was essentially making coleslaw too. Not posh coleslaw, not even an exotic Asian-ish one. Is there such a thing as a middle class coleslaw? I think I’ve just made it. But in good news, this is a coleslaw that transcends all barriers. Young, old, rich, poor, we can all eat and enjoy with impunity. But if you even think of putting tinned pineapple in it you deserve to choke on each mouthful.

So good to eat, so hard to make look good to eat!

Middle class coleslaw
This is the sort of thing you whip up in 10 minutes while wearing your running kit and making increasingly firm requests to your daughter to get out of the bath so you can get into it. Quantities are approximate – this much makes enough for four. Any leftovers are good in a lunchbox the next day.

1/4 of a cabbage – Savoy if you’re posh, ordinary if not, shredded
2 carrots, peeled, then grated
2 ribs of celery, destringed, then finely chopped
100g tasty cheddar, grated
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
a good pinch of sugar
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Make the dressing first. Put the smashed garlic, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a screw top jar. Screw on the lid and shake well. Add the oil, reattach the lid and shake again until emulsified. Taste – add a little more oil or vinegar to suit. It should be slightly on the sharp side to balance out the cheese.
Put the cabbage, carrot, celery and cheese in a salad bowl and toss together to mix. Sprinkle over the caraway seeds, if using, then pour over two-thirds of the dressing. Toss well, adding more dressing if necessary. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Are you a food snob? Does it get you into trouble?

Random recipe: Shiraz bi buqal

Regular readers of Belleau Kitchen will know that the proprietor, Dom, has been unwell recently. Rather than let a bout of illness put him off the boil, he’s gone and given this month’s Random Recipe challenge a ‘happy and healthy’ theme, extolling participants to rummage through their diet or health-related cookbooks in order to come up with something nourishing to share.
Given that I don’t own any diet books, unless you count Victoria Moore’s ‘How to Drink’ (a sort of guidebook for those who wish to pursue an alcoholic liquids diet), I instead turned to my latest find – a battered paperback called ‘Wild Blackberry Cobbler And Other Old-Fashioned Recipes‘ – that I found at a charity shop for 50 cents. This book, first published in 1985, has recipes from Greek and Roman times through to American dishes of the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s written by Katie Stewart, one-time ‘cookery editor’ of The Times and it’s a brilliant read.
I wasn’t sure a random flick through would turn up anything that Dom would consider ‘happy and healthy’, but I was wrong. According to Katie Stewart, the old Persian recipe from which this dish comes described it as “an excellent relish which both awakens and stimulates the appetite”. If that’s not happy and healthy, I’m not sure what is.

Shiraz bi buqal
You have to admit, ‘shiraz bi buqal’ sounds a bit more exotic than plain old ‘cottage cheese with fresh herbs’ – and whatever you might think of cottage cheese, it sounds more enticing than the ancient Persian equivalent of ‘coagulated milk’. It’s all in how you describe it, isn’t it? So this then, is a mix of fresh, onion-y leeks and celery, fragrant mint, crunchy nuts and soft curds. It’s good on a slice of hearty bread or with some decent crackers and perhaps a dried fig or two.

250g cottage cheese (the best sort you can get, and most emphatically NOT the ‘lite’ version
3 thick slices of the white part of a leek
a handful of celery leaves
6 mint leaves
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
salt and pepper
12 walnut halves, roughly chopped

Finely chop the leek, celery leaves and mint leaves together – if you have a processor with a mini-bowl, now is one of the rare times it comes in handy. Stir into the cottage cheese with the mustard and salt and pepper. Pile this mixture into a small serving bowl and top with the walnuts. Serves two as a lunch accompaniment or four as part of a platter of delectable titbits.

Random recipe: Feta + radish salad

I’m always amused at the ways Dom of Belleau Kitchen comes up with to entice people into joining his Random Recipes challenge each month. For April he’s decided to enlist the help of an interactive ‘thingummydoodah’ to make the process simpler (because nothing is more tedious – or frightening – than counting your cookbooks, right?)

For once the gods of Random Recipes smiled upon me and the thingummydoodah chose Fiona Beckett’s Cheese Course. There are no prizes for guessing the focus of this lovely book, which looks at wine and cheese matching (or whisky and cheese matching, if that’s your thing), designing cheese boards and choosing cheeses for entertaining, along with a generous handful of recipes.

 It’s not exactly spring in New Zealand at the moment (though it is unseasonably warm and it is definitely raining a lot) so I was really hopeful that the book would fall open at Fiona’s delicious macaroni cheese recipe (with crispy wafers of Parmesan scattered throughout so no one misses out on the crunchy bits). But as we eat a lot of feta, cucumber and olives in our house, landing on this recipe was surely a sign from the cheese gods.

Feta, cucumber and mint spring salad
Fiona says this recipe comes from London restaurant Ransome’s Dock, which in turn adapted it from a dish at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. She’s given me her kind permission to reproduce it here. Don’t quote me on this but if you’re on Dr Michael Mosley’s 5:2 diet, it strikes me that this salad offers quite a lot of bang for your calorie buck.

2 mini cucumbers (or about half a telegraph cucumber)
6 radishes
2 handfuls of rocket
a small handful of fresh mint leaves, finely sliced
150g feta, broken into small pieces
10-15 small black olives

Dressing:
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
a squeeze of lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the dressing, put all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake until well combined.
Cut the cucumbers in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds with the tip of a teaspoon. Slice lengthways, using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, until you have a pile of wafer-thin slices. Slice the radishes thinly on the diagonal.
Put the cucumber, radishes, mint and rocket in a bowl and toss together with the dressing. Add the feta and toss lightly again, then scatter over the olives. Divide the salad between two plates and serve with crusty bread. Serves two as a light lunch.

Smoked salmon and wasabi pate

The man of the house is currently brushing up on his French skills and this means getting me to help him with his homework. Once upon a time, this would have been easy, but the passing of time means my brain doesn’t operate in French as well as it used to (or, indeed, as I imagined it once did). I’ve been feeling quite depressed about this, but am consoling myself with the fact that my menu French is still better than his. And when I looked up the Larousse to get a proper dictionary definition of ‘pate’, I didn’t need another dictionary to explain the answer. So I can’t be too badly off, can I?

Smoked Salmon And Wasabi Dip

Smoked salmon and wasabi pate
For the record, Larousse defines ‘pate’ as ‘preparation de charcuterie de texture tres variable et composee de viandes et d’abats en morceaux ou en pate fine et de differents ingredients’ and you don’t need to know much French to figure out that there are (mercifully) no ‘viandes’ (or ‘abats’ – organs) in a smoked salmon version. But I had to call it something other than ‘a sort of spread-y thing you can have on toast or crackers or on little bits of cucumber like an 80s canape’, didn’t I?
This is inspired by something in Jamie Oliver’s book on British food – he makes something similar with smoked trout and horseradish and serves it with baby Yorkshire puddings. And cor blimey, guv’nor, it is bloomin’ lovely. Or c’est absolument delicieux, as our French friends would say.

150g cream cheese, softened
1/4 – 1 tsp wasabi paste
150g hot smoked salmon
finely grated zest of a lemon, plus its juice
a couple of teaspoons of finely chopped dill or mint

Put the cream cheese, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon of wasabi in a small bowl and beat with a fork until smooth. Taste it for hotness – the wasabi should be present, but not overpowering. Keep adding it until you think it’s about right. Flake in the hot smoked salmon and dill or mint. Fold it into the cream cheese, adding a little lemon juice if it seems a bit stiff. Taste again for seasoning – add some salt and freshly cracked black pepper until the balance is right. Scrape into a little bowl and cover, then store in the fridge. Makes enough for six people as a canape, with enough for one lucky person to have on toast the next morning.

Bonne semaine, tout le monde!

Random recipe #25: Bermuda Salad

I felt very old last week. First, I saw a group of new university students moving into their hostel accommodation and realised I looked like one of their mothers. Second, I got out of bed and put my neck out. Third, I saw several copies of Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook in charity shops.

She was more hippy than hipster, but Mollie Katzen ruled the vegetarian school of eating in the late 1970s and 80s. She was part of a collective (it was the 70s, remember?) who ran a restaurant in Ithaca, New York devoted to good, wholesome food. The hand-lettered Moosewood Cookbook, first published in 1973, reflected that ethos (instead of a table of contents it has a ‘table of contentment’) and went on to become one of the 10 best-selling cookbooks of all time, according to the New York Times. The food, though a little dated in parts, is not unlike that in Ottolenghi’s Plenty, so if you see a copy in a charity shop, snap it up.

Moosewood Bermuda Salad
All that said, I felt a bit nervous when my hand fell on the book’s cracked spine when I was searching for a contender for February’s Random Recipe challenge. I thought of some of the book’s less appealing recipes, like Stuffed Cabbage or White Rabbit Salad (cottage cheese, apples, seeds) and wondered how I would sell those to my dining companions. In the end though, the benign gods of Random Recipes – or at least the beatific Dom of Belleau Kitchen – smiled upon me and we ended up with this gem. It looks a bit messy, but it tastes delicious. Don’t tell Mollie’s crew but we ate it with a roast chicken and it was a very happy match.

125ml apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
125ml extra virgin olive oil
500g green beans, topped and tailed
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheese
two handfuls fresh parsley, finely chopped

Put the vinegar, salt and pepper and garlic in a large bowl (the serving bowl, to cut down on dishes) and stir well. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the sliced onion and set aside.
Steam the beans until just tender. Drain, then add to the marinade. Stir well and let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.
Ten minutes before you’re ready to eat, take the salad out of the fridge. Toss through the parsley and grated cheese just before serving. Serves four.

The instructions in the book are very explicit: “This is a COLOR SALAD. Don’t substitute white onions or cheese or you’ll lose the scheme. Okay?” You’re also supposed to serve it on a bed of red cabbage leaves for added wow factor. I didn’t. As for the cheese, the book specifies colby (ugh!) but we used tasty cheddar. Feta or Parmesan would be good too. The final instruction is to “Garnish Lavishly” with eggs, tomatoes, olives, sprouts, lemon slices or orange slices. You can take a book out of the 1970s, but you can’t take the 1970s out of the book.

Do you have the Moosewood Cookbook? Do you still use it?