I loathe coleslaw. It’s a long and irrelevant story, summed up in two words: institutional food. In my case, that was boarding school, followed by university. By the time I reached university, I just simply didn’t eat what I didn’t like. At school, that was less possible. However, more than forty years later, coleslaw remains a least favourite dish. I have probably made it, but the memory is permanently erased from my brain.
It’s not just coleslaw. I have a distinct aversion to white, cooked cabbage which I blame on my mother and boarding school. At school, the cabbage was boiled to death and its presence in the day’s meal was announced by the “aroma” that hung around for hours. When I was very little – like four or five – my mother’s preferred way of preparing cabbage was also the death boil. She served it covered with a deluge of celery salt. Actually, she used celery salt on a lot of things including jacket potatoes. As a consequence, celery is culinary ingredient that I’ve only come to appreciate in the last few years.
Back to cabbage: somewhere between the death boil of my toddlerhood and my tweens, red (or purple) cabbage became available and my mother remembered a recipe for braising cabbage with onion and apple; no water. Suddenly cabbage became imminently edible and that recipe, with a minor addition, is a favourite not just of ours, but of some of our guests, too.
However, as usual, I digress.
A few weeks ago, the temperature went from freezing cold to scorching the trees, so the idea of cooking a hot meal was less than appealing. Back to my mother: occasionally she’d make a cabbage salad – not with mayonnaise and grated carrot – but rather with a French dressing or vinaigrette; with white cabbage. At the time, for reasons unimportant, I had a rather large red cabbage and carrots in the fridge. I love the combination of bright purple and orange, so an idea began to form. I rejected a French dressing and opted for Asian flavours. Again, because of what I had on hand – dhanya (coriander/cilantro) and mint from the garden.
An Asian style salad is born
After weaving my way around the Interweb for a while and finding no recipe for which I had all the ingredients, I came up with my own Asian style salad and accompanying dressing of vegetable oil, lime or lemon juice and chilli jam.
It was delicious.
A good thing, too, because there was a vast quantity which, I discovered, keeps well in the fridge. In addition, this salad also has the versatility I like for creating meals for vegetarians (and vegans) as well as carnivores.
The salad was great on its own, but also made a great base for two other dishes: as a bed for slices of rare sirloin and sautéed brinjal and hummus. One could also add seeds and nuts for protein, or even whole chickpeas (garbanzo beans) instead of hummus.
Download a printable recipe here.
Wot, no bread?
After the brinjal and hummus meal, as is
occasionally my wont, I shared a photograph on social media. I mused that a flat or pita bread would have worked well with that meal.
Next thing, one of my pals comments that she has this “really easy” recipe and voila, the recipe’s there.
It uses self-raising flour which, I gather is a British and South African product, but which I no longer keep in the pantry. Anyhow, after another wander around the Interweb, I discovered the ingredient(s) essential for the rise and adjusted the recipe accordingly.
Quick and really easy they are and, if you’re using self-raising flour, you need only two other ingredients: full (or double cream) yoghurt and a little salt. Probably the most time-consuming part is the resting and rolling. The resting can happen while you prepare the other bits of the meal, and because they’re cooked in a hot dry pan on the hob, the cooking is relatively quick.
What I learned
The mixture makes quite a large quantity – as many as eight breads, roughly 20cm in diameter.
I discovered that although one can keep the dough, it does deteriorate. A far better option is to make all the breads, allow them to cool and freeze them.
Download a printable version of the recipe here.
A Mediterranean and Asian Fusion
I now know that this combination of ingredients is also the base for yeast-free Naan (Indian) bread, which makes these breads the perfect bridge between the flavours of east and the west. Of course, they can also be made to any shape you choose and round, can be cut and split into pockets. Then, I popped in a dollop of hummus and a goodly quantity of the salad, in a fusion of Asian with Mediterranean flavours.
The result was delicious and on reflection, this is one of those meals when the components can be prepared in advance and don’t spoil. A great option for those meals when it’s going to be impossible to cook. For whatever reason.
I got to know Mary when she was sharing a home with her sister who was one of my favourite teachers. When I did my teacher training, Ursula took me under her wing and in the subsequent years, remained a good friend and mentor. Ursula is no longer with us, but I’m delighted that my connection with her continues through my friendship with Mary – albeit largely on Facebook.
What Mary didn’t say when she shared the recipe is that it these breads are as delicious and versatile as they are easy to make.
Thank you, Mary.
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
I didn’t realise when writing this post, that I did so on the 7th anniversary of Ursula’s death. She is much missed.
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