Today has been one of those brilliant days when the sky is azure, the sun is shining, and high tide is at 3:00, perfect for our favourite beach. I know this because, while I was at work, The Author took the three kids and visiting cousins there. They spent the day picnicking, frolicking, swimming, and collecting pebbles and driftwood.
I spent the day cooking.
This evening, I arrived home first, and then the beach-goers arrived. They all piled out of the car, sticky with ice cream and smelling intoxicatingly of the sea and the sun. I hugged them and kissed them, and I inhaled that scent on their skin – lovely. Then they shook out their towels (“Not inside!!!”) and changed out of their thoroughly sandy clothes. Between their smell and the feel of the sand underfoot, and it was almost as if I had been on the coast with them.
I’m not bitter (no, really!), and in fact, I had a lovely day. The college is very quiet during August; we are between students, and many staff and faculty are on holiday, so the kitchen is a very relaxing place to be. We are cooking for anywhere from 30-50 people right now – the numbers fluctuate, and we can never get a real handle on it, even in the best of times – which means that we have a little bit of leisure to experiment and to make slightly more fiddly things than we might be able to normally. But I know it’s the calm before the storm.
The gardeners are bringing in kilo after kilo of produce; right now we are blessed with the most delicious potatoes, and the kale is burgeoning, and we really are going to have to do something with the mountains of courgettes before they get out of hand. Add to that the soft fruit that keeps ripening in waves, the chard that is unfurling, the tomatoes blushing in the polytunnels, and the cabbages – always the cabbages – and all of a sudden you get the sense of a tide rising quickly.
So we scrubbed the soil off the potatoes, picked over the freshly-picked cabbages for slugs, de-stemmed marjoram and mint, and chopped up garlic. We used up a fair amount of the harvest today, and then we sat in the sun, eating a lunch which was as fresh and as local as you could get. For a cook, not a terrible way to spend a day, if you ask me.
And without any sand in my knickers.
Spicy Cabbage Salad with Lime, Coriander & Mint
Cabbages are an all-season vegetable in these parts, and because I’m always trying to eat seasonally, that means we eat a lot of cabbage, both at the college and at home. Cabbage can be incredibly sulphurous, but I find pairing it with a strong ingredient helps to bring out the sweetness. In this case, the lime and the chile tame and lift the overall flavour, so that it is really more-ish.
Don’t worry about exact proportions, but do make sure that if your cabbage is slightly tough, you use plenty of salt to soften it. (Most of the salt will end up at the bottom of the bowl anyway, so don’t fret about using too much!)
- 500g (1 lb) cabbage
- 40ml (2TB + 1 tsp) olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 30ml (2 TB) fresh lime juice
- 1 chile pepper, minced (use whatever type you like!)
- 15g (a small handful) mint, chopped
- 15g (a small handful) coriander, chopped
Wash the cabbage (with the leaves separated, if necessary, to find and otherwise distribute the resident slugs). Dry the leaves (you can just roll them in a tea towel – no need to be too particular) and then slice them finely. This last part is crucial, especially if you are using a more mature cabbage, which will be slightly tougher. The thinner the cut, the more delectable the end result!
Place all the sliced cabbage in a large bowl, and add the oil, salt and pepper. Mix well (I use my hands to get everything thoroughly distributed), and then mix in the lime juice and the chile.
Leave the salad to sit for 10 minutes or so; you will see a definite wilt, but this is where the flavours are mingling and the salad is becoming more than the sum of its parts. Stir in the coriander and mint, and taste to adjust seasoning.