I was never much of a pink princess but my purple phase did last at least a year. Aged 8, I owned the requisite 1970’s skinny-rib polo neck in a smashing shade of mauve which I teamed with a thistley -toned tartan kilt. Mum painted my bedroom walls lilac and I was even allowed to dye the Candlewick bedspread a complementary shade of mulberry. Soon I had tie dye pillow cases, sheets and pyjamas to match. I’ve thankfully branched out since, although I was slightly shocked a few minutes ago to look down and clock that I’m wearing purple trousers.
Earlier today I popped up the road for a few vegetables, I just felt the need for a healthy, zippy winter salad. Once I’d filled my basket I realised that it’s strange, but when it comes to pink and purple fruit and veg’ I seem to have become increasingly obsessed. Rhubarb, beetroot, red cabbage and radishes all filled me with dread as a child and now I just can’t get enough of them.
Reg’ the Veg’ also had some of the ridiculously beautiful little amaranth shoots too (you can see them on the edge of the plate). I discovered them for the first time last week whilst working at Borough Market and up they’ve popped again. They have an almost beetrooty flavour and make a fabulous garnish for all sorts of salads and soups (I’ve already got a bright pea soup sprinkled with fuschia amaranth shoots lined up in my head). There’s a bonus too; the more varied and vivid the palette of your fruit and vegetables, the more healthy your diet.
Fruit and veggies such as beetroot, aubergines, red cabbages, red onions, blueberries, blackberries, plums, elderberries, raisins, and pomegranates are loaded with purple pigment. This pigment is evidence of the high concentration of anthocyanins (powerful anti-oxidants that ward off disease and could put the brakes on the aging process too – bring’em on)
I know it’s not very British to drop the “cole” and call this a “slaw” but I’m afraid that coleslaw seems to have become synonymous with those plastic pots of supermarket gloop – too sweet, no pert crispy cabbage and unbelievably cloying. A slaw is really just a cabbage salad and my recipe today has a simple vinaigrette dressing because I was really yearning some fresh , clean flavours. You could try adding a couple of teaspoons of tahini for some extra richness, make a herby yoghurt dressing or go the whole hog and stir in some good mayonnaise.
My Pinky-Purple Winter Slaw
It goes without saying that everything is raw- lots of people are unaware that you can eat raw beetroot or rhubarb but they have amazing texture and flavour and they’re loaded with vitamins.
1/2 a head of red cabbage (about 500g)
2 small beetroot
2-3 good, crispy apples
1/4 of a red onion
2 sticks of rhubarb
2 Sanguinello oranges
50 g raisins
50 g walnut halves
A handful of parsley
1 sprig of tarragon
For the Dressing:
2 tbsp white wine vinegar (I used Moscatel vinegar)
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt & plenty of freshly ground black pepper
A handful of amaranth shoots
Shred or slice all the vegetables and fruit as finely as you like and then mix together with the raisins, walnuts and herbs ( I don’t ever grate the vegetables as everything becomes rather sludgy).
Mix the dressing, making sure that it’s quite rich and oily – you’ve got lots of acidic rhubarb, apple and orange to balance up.
Toss the salad with the dressing and sprinkle over the amaranth shoots.
Alternatively, depending on the occasion, you could take a more glam approach. I thought I’d give it a try, layering the vegetables in a glass and tipping over the dressing.
And some more ideas – How about?
White or green cabbage as well as/instead of the red.
Kolrabi, carrot or golden beet as well as/instead of the beetroot.
Spring onion or shallots instead of the red onion.
Pomegranate, grapefruit or pears as well as/instead of the rhubarb, apples and oranges
Other dried fruit such as figs, apricots, cranberries or cherries in place of the raisins
Using any nuts such as peanuts, pine kernels, pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts.
Varying your herbs – mint or basil instead of the tarragon.
Sprinkling with alfalfa, pea shoots or bean sprouts.