i fought the slaw and the slaw won

The brain does many strange things, one of which is the way songs can get stuck in it, without reason or end. If stereos were the size of tic tacs, it’d make sense. “Oh, that’s why I keep hearing that song! My boombox got stuck in my ponytail again! Ha ha ha!” But this is not the case. It’s just the brain. For example: last weekend when Tim was away in Taihape, one song got itself persistently in my mind, repeating itself with an alarming stamina.

That song was A Bear Went Over The Mountain.
Sometimes it was like the record had a scratch in it, and I would hear nothing but a sinister refrain of “and all that he could see! And all that he could see! And all that he could see!” Yeah. I don’t know what qualities cause a song to do this, but sometimes I call my brain’s bluff by actually loving the song that gets stuck in my head, like Kiss From A Rose (which I may have played about six times in a row on YouTube recently) or Purea Nei.
Basically I just couldn’t bear that (bear!) alone, but it does lead into my next point: sometimes recipes do this to me too. The ingredients list curls around my inquisitive mental imaging faculties, lodging there fairly permanently till I can find the time to bring the recipe into existence. Luckily for me, the most recent time this happened, I didn’t have to wait too long. On Friday night Tim and I went to the house of of the terrific Kate and Jason for an evening of ceaseless hilarity and sustained deliciousness – homemade cheese, sublime sweet potato pie with a lattice top, polenta, spicy soup, soft dinner rolls filled with fried tomato slices and the crispest bacon – and several of these recipes came from a particular book called Simple Fresh Southern by these guys called The Lee Brothers. I wanted the recipe for the cheese but Kate talked me into taking home the whole book to borrow, and I am so glad, because the moment I flipped it open (wait – the moment the wine wore off and I flipped it open) and made eyes with their Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts recipe, I knew I had to make it my own. And then all the rest of their recipes. This book is so cool.
I agree with you entirely that a salad based on cabbage might sound severe and unsexy and like the very last sort of thing you want to eat in winter when there are casseroles and puddings to be had. But after a few nights out enjoying abundant food and wine and with more such evenings on the nearing horizon, I honestly do just want to bury my face in a cool, astringent, mustardy salad with bursts of citrus sourness.
Besides, the crisp peppery shredded cabbage, tart lime segments and hot mustard are mellowed out considerably by all the salt, the oil in the dressing, and the creamy bite of the roasted nuts. You could serve it with fish, chicken, a dirty great big steak, with rice noodles under or stirred into it, and so on. Or even on the side of a big slow-cooked casserole with a hearty pudding to follow.
Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts

From Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers

1/2 small red cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded/finely sliced
1/2 small green cabbage, treated in the same way
1 tablespoon salt
1 bunch fresh baby spinach leaves, finely sliced
1 lime
Juice of 1-2 further limes
1 tablespoon Dijon or similar mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon peanut oil
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts (or whatever you’ve got!) roughly chopped

The recipe says to toss the cabbage with the salt, then sit it in a colander over a bowl for two hours so that lots of liquid can drain out. But honestly, not a drop of water was in the bowl after two hours. Maybe our cabbages are different here in New Zealand? You do as you please. Otherwise, mix together all the leaves in a large bowl. Trim the ends off the lime and peel it, then carefully slice it into segments, peeling off the membrane where you can, and tear these segments into small pieces. Toss them into the leaves too.
Whisk together the rest of the ingredients to make the dressing, and thoroughly mix this into the salad, and finally stir through the chopped nuts. Serve!
Note to yourself: I used just purple cabbage since I’m only feeding the two of us, I used cavolo nero instead of spinach and almonds instead of peanuts since that’s what I had, and if you get a bit stuck you could use lemons instead of limes and wasabi paste instead of mustard.
This salad is punchily delicious, awakening you from any wintery downtrodden-ness with every drop of lime juice you absorb. It’s also very pretty to look at, with its queenly purple and green gemstone colours.
(I mean fairytale queen, not the actual Queen of England – that would have to be a more pastel-toned salad.) (Also: I got the pretty, pretty bowl in a moment of sale-induced single-mindedness from Swonderful.)
As if Tim and I making friends and eating their food isn’t enough excitement, this afternoon in Wellington it started SNOWING. It hasn’t snowed in Wellington since 1995! Honestly, when I was a kid I didn’t know that it snowed anywhere in New Zealand but that’s because I grew up south of Auckland, not really within cooee of a snow-capped mountain. In the CBD where we live it was more rainy than snowy and it didn’t really settle but there was an unmistakable icing-sugar dusting of snowflakes in the air and it was thrilling.
Title via: yes I’ve used this song before as a title holder but not in this way and besides, I’m very tired (just in case anyone’s watching closely.) I love the Dead Kennedy’s version of this which changes it to “and I won” but it’s hard to go past Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ singing that the Law did in fact win, which must’ve been fairly reassuring to the nervously suspicious adults of the time.
Music lately:
Tim and I saw the stunning movie Pina tonight, which luckily gives as much attention to sound as it does visuals. Shake It is one such example of its glorious music.
Speaking of Tim, being the diamond that he is, he bought me a Judy Garland and Liza Minelli live record and I love it. It’s them at the London Palladium in the early sixties, and they’re quite adorable, given the often distinctly non-adorable circumstances of Garland’s life. Their personalised take on Hello, Dolly is very sweet and shows off how good their similar voices sound together.
Next time: Well I’ve loaded up on buttermilk to attempt more of the recipes in the Lee Brothers’ gorgeous book, and at the prompting of excellent lady Jo both via email and in person, since we were fortunate enough to see her twice this week, I’ll most definitely be pondering cupcakes for the SPCA Cupcake Day too…

13 thoughts on “i fought the slaw and the slaw won

  1. Kay says:

    Love the title. Love “Kiss from a Rose” too. Might have told you that I use it to teach the kids how to waltz. Another goody waltz tune we use that will stick in your head is Katy Melua “You taught Me how To dance” or something similar, from the Beatrix Potter movie. Google it if you don't know it and I defy you to not have it lurk in your mental corridors for at least a day – and infinitely better than “The bear went over the mountain….”


  2. georgi hampton says:

    'a bear went over the mountain' – i didn't even recognise the song until 'and all that he could see!' (which was the other side of the mountain, right?) oh… primary school. The colours in this look so good!


  3. Hannah says:

    There is nothing in this recipe that I'm not obsessed with. One of the only saving graces of Winter is how sweet cabbage tastes. And mustard and peanuts? I will always be in. 😀


  4. Kate @ lovelornunicorn.com says:

    Yay, Jason and I are terrific! As are you dudes. What a good recipe, I've never made it properly to tell you the truth, but crisp slaw with lime and peanuts is my fave. And sliced up apples too, which I got from Jo! From whom the idea of eating it with mac n cheese comes from. Or was that from Monterey? Either way it's great at being crisp and delicious but not tooo healthy with a plate of mac n cheese. You should definitely try this with peanuts, and I'll try it made with the proper dressing, deal?


  5. Anonymous says:

    I have recently discovered your blog, yay for me 🙂 Love your writing style.

    This salad looks tasty as. I completely agree about needing crisp cool tangy meals in between the traditional stodgy winter comfort meals.

    The snow was amazing! I didn't get the full brunt of it either being in Lyall Bay but saw lots of pics of J'Ville and the hills that looked so pretty. Apparently it's a once in a decade event but in 30 years I don't remember ever seeing it like this. Thrilling indeed.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Is that your new bowl?? I'm so in love!

    I usually shy away from salads in winter (knowing full well that I shouldn't!) but this looks like the kind of thing I'd eat right now. Somehow seems sturdy and robust. And colourful!


  7. Alessandra says:

    Unfortunately I cannot digest raw cabbage, unless it is in minimum doses… like one or two strands only! But I could try with cabbage that has been tossed in a pan a few times to steam it trough enough to become 'bearable' to my stomach :-).


  8. Emma says:

    Whenever I think of Kiss From A Rose, I am reminded of another such wonderful 90s song, Return to Innocence. And then I laugh for about an hour and sing along; “ohheyyyyyiiiiieyyyyyieyyyyyyohhohhhhh!”

    I saw this cookbook at a bookstore today, but I chose to focus on my fictitious needs over those that are food-based. Who am I kidding, I don't really make meals… I just eat pasta every night.

    But I did almost buy a box set of Babysitters Club #5-8 at the thrift store the other day, I thought you'd like that. Bummer that I didn't grab it… “iiiieyyyyeeeeohhhhoieeeeyyohhhhhiieyeyeyohhhyayooo” Man this song kicks ass!


  9. Nigel Olsen says:

    This is a marked improvement over the ubiquitous cabbage/grated carrot/mayo horrorslaw that appears at every bbq I've ever attended. Colourful, interesting texture & doubtlessly flavoursome; a delightful bowl of win.


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