Beautiful brassicas

You might remember that I used to write a monthly blog for Francoise Murat Design about season British food. Well, Francoise has had the blog redesigned and its now called Rendez-vous Deco & Jardin, it looks lovely and I’m please to say I’m back doing my monthly feature.

My first piece was on how versatile brassicas are in the kitchen are and how useful they can be in in the lean vegetable months before the UK growing season gets into swing.

You can read the article here, its packed with ideas on how to use brassicas from spicy to mild, british to asian cooking, there is sure to be something to suit you.

Easy slaw

It’s taken me a long time to be a fan of coleslaw. Scarred by childhood memories of gloopy overly vinegary stuff from tubs and at the other extreme overly wholesome versions with yoghurt and stale nuts, I’ve always approached the dish with caution. But my husband is a big fan and so I thought ‘how hard can it be’ to make a good version…so I tried.

At first I refused to add any extra vinegar, the recipes got a modest thumbs up but the comments ‘too thick’. Then in summer last year there was a twitter conversation about making slaw with chums @josordoni, @roystonandhayes, @lahoguefarm and @cjmsheng each having their views on essential and optional ingredients. Chris from La Hogue was kind enough to tweet us the version he uses in the cafe (all typos his not mine on this one !):

“Ok our *Coleslaw*-carrot,cabbage,onion,good plain mayonaisse >>then dressing of local honey,lemonjuice,womersley vinegar,wholegrain mustard & olive oil -only use a small amount of dressing ;0)”

So since then I’ve been using that a a basic structure but playing with the mix depending on what’s to hand, what its to be served and what flavours I fancy. I’m an inveterate recipe fiddler. The mix immediately got the thumbs up and each batch seems to have been more winning than the last.

The picture above was made as follows (makes enough for 6):

1/2 head spring cabbage, shredded

1/2 head celeriac, sliced finely

1 red onion sliced finely

125g of Stokes mayonnaise (my current favourite mayo)

1 tbsp coriander seeds lightly crushed

1 tbsp Womersley blackberry vinegar

Mix all the vegetables together, add the mayo and coriander and stir in, leave to stand for 30 mins. Pour over the vinegar and stir through.

We served it with venison burgers the first evening and with smoked salmon and Peters Yard crispbread for a light lunch.


cabbage: don’t just stick to the white or red varieties all different sorts will work as will kale or green, you just get a different texture

root veg: carrot is traditional but beetroot is lovely as is parsnip

spices/seasoning: mustard is traditional but I like cumin, chilli, coriander, fennel, onion seeds, poppy seeds depending on what I’m serving it with. Experiment.



A little bit of chemistry

I took this photo of the water after I’d steamed some red cabbage at the weekend because I thought it was such a beautiful colour.

And then I got to wondering what chemistry is going on that means that a lovely deep red cabbage produces blue  water (with slight hints of green – it was bluer in reality than the picture shows – more photography practice for me). It turned out to be pretty simple and a quick bit of googling lead me to the answer.

It’s all about the pH of the water – and in fact red cabbage isn’t always red depending on the acidity or otherwise of the soil it’s grown in. I then found a chart of the most recent water tests for the area where I live on the Thames Water site – how cool is this – you put in your postcode and it takes you to the stats for your area – oh such delightful push of button geeky info.

And on I found a table that tallying the water colour to the expected pH – which was pretty accurate an estimated pH 8 compared to measured average of 7.8. I’m impressed (some might suggest its easily done but hey). 

Science made interesting? Maybe.