Monday, September 15, 2008

the first salad of the season

With the return of the warm weather I am more than ready to reintroduce crunchy salads into my life. However despite the rise in barometric pressure, fresh produce-wise it will take a few more weeks for seasonal, local salad vegetables to flourish. With the cabbage family still available the market a slaw seemed the obvious choice, especially as there was a particularly fine sugar loaf cabbage on display.

After a trip to NZ I tend to get nostalgic for smoked fish. Last New Years Eve I made a salad with smoked kingfish and the same dressing, this is another variation. But like the weather in my homeland, grab your balmy day salads while you can - there's a cold front whistling its way through the State as I type!

Asian coleslaw with smoked eel

1/2 cabbage, finely sliced
1 Lebanese cucumber, halved and finely sliced
4 radishes, halved and finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
1 head of broccoli, broken into small florets, blanched (because, you guessed it, there was some crying out to be eaten in the garden)
a generous handful of fresh herbs (I used Vietnamese and regular mint but coriander/cilantro would be go well)

1 small or 1/2 large, smoked eel, skinned, filleted and broken into small pieces

Dressing

fish sauce
fresh lime or lemon juice
palm sugar
1 red chilli finely diced

If you are not going to eat the salad immediately it is best to prepare the vegetables, eel and dressing separately – combining just before serving.

To assemble the slaw, blanch the broccoli for 45 seconds and refresh in iced water. Slice and grate the remaining vegetables, shred the herbs with your hands and toss together in a large bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

Prepare the eel. If you have bought nice little fillets (which is much less confronting if you are not sure how you feel about eating eel) just dice the flesh into pieces about 3 cm square. If dealing with whole eel, remove the outer skin and if the fish is particularly fatty scrape off any ‘jelly’ with a knife. Peel the flesh away from the backbone and then all there is left to do is dice the fillets. There is a bit more on preparing eel in this previous eel worshipping post.

For the dressing the flavour balance is a matter of taste. If you are a little unsure as to quantities, start with the juice of a lemon or lime, an equal amount of fish sauce and 1 teaspoon of palm sugar (caster is ok if you don’t have palm). Mix the ingredients together with the chilli and taste – too salty add more lime and sugar, too sweet add more fish sauce. Just keep tasting til the different flavours sing together, rather than compete.

When you are ready to eat combine the slaw, eel and toss through the dressing.


I ate too late to take a photo but the colours of the slaw were beautiful - a variety of greens, red and orange. There was just the right amount of crunch to satisfy a lover of salads after a long, slow cooked winter. As for the eel, really if you haven't tried it, you haven't lived yet!

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Lucy said...

Having just been swept inside by wild wind and rain, you'd think I'd not want to be eating salads.

But I am so over cold weather food. Yum.

Must get some smoked eel. The kosher people around here will, thankfully, leave it all to me. Normally anything smoked gets slurped up before I get a chance to even think about breaking open the packet...

2:41 pm  

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