This article first appeared in the Wells Journal on 9 January 2014.
In the deepest, darkest days of winter, it is not uncommon to crave large helpings of a warming slow-cooked casserole, a rich, meaty pie or a satisfying steamed pudding smothered in hot custard.
There are times though when it’s not heavy, stodgy comfort food my body yearns for. Instead I need something light, crunchy and zingy; a fresh and healthy dish to transport my head to more sunshiny climes.
While this salad is comprised for the main part of seasonal winter produce, it successfully delivers a taste of summer, as well as providing a much-needed alternative use for those seemingly uninspiring ingredients filling our veggie boxes week after week at this time of year.
Based on a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, this salad is extremely versatile and can be used with just about any root vegetable or cabbage. All the vegetables are served raw, either grated or finely shredded, so it is very much like a winter coleslaw or remoulade. But it is the dressing that really elevates this salad, featuring generous handfuls of fresh herbs, lemon juice, salty capers, mustard, sour cherries, sultanas and a little sugar, for a superbly vibrant sweet and sour kick.
I served it alongside a baked ham for our Boxing Day gathering and it went down a storm with family and friends. It’s also a very good accompaniment to simple grilled fish or chicken, or include it as part of a mezze.
So next time you pull up yet another swede or parsnip from you veg box or allotment, don’t automatically boil it up or roast it. Instead, give this sweet and sour salad a go and bring your taste buds out of hibernation.
Sweet and sour winter salad
500g winter vegetables, shredded or grated
(I used red cabbage, celeriac, parsnip and swede)
handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp caster sugar
50g dried sour cherries
salt and pepper
Place all the shredded or grated vegetables in a large mixing bowl and simply add the rest of the ingredients. Use your hands to thoroughly combine everything to make sure the vegetables absorb all those flavours.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and possibly a little more vinegar or sugar depending on how sweet or sour you like it.
Leave the salad for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavours to develop. I always intentionally make too much, as I think it tastes even better the next day.
As this salad features both fresh herbs and zingy lemon, I’m entering it into this month’s Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage where the theme for January is Herbs & Citrus Fruits.
It is also my offering for Extra Veg, a new challenge hosted by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy, encouraging us all to eat an extra portion of vegetables each day. With a big bowl of this in your fridge, there’s no excuse to snack on the bad stuff when you get the munchies.