Winter coleslaw: in praise of raw food (some of the time!)

by sophie on February 13, 2008 · 13 comments

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There are always raw food enthusiasts around telling you that a diet exclusive of food cooked using heat is the way to eternal life but in reality the answer (as is nearly always the case in nutrition) lies in variety. As much as some nutrients are diminished by the water and heat that they encounter during cooking, there are a whole host of others that only become user friendly with a touch of heat and a drizzle of oil. The Japanese are probably the best at this balancing act with their talent for mixing raw and cooked vegetables within a single dish, providing bags of texture and nutrients.

This winter I have been studiously avoiding imported salad vegetables as far as possible but I miss the crunchy stuff, and there are only so many kettle chips a girl can reasonably eat to fulfill this particular craving. Enter the winter coleslaw – fantastically crunchy and very nutritious.

Coleslaw is a really good example of why it is the variety of produce and cooking methods that you use across the week as a whole that counts. Cabbage is surprisingly packed with vitamin C (49mg per 100g of cabbage, compared with 54mg in the same quantity of orange, and 1mg in the same amount of cauliflower). Red cabbage is purportedly even higher in vitamin C than white or green cabbages, but the rub is that this vitamin C is a sensitive little nutrient and fair chunks of it tends to be obliterated during cooking. The same goes for the folic acid in the leek. Hurrah for raw food you might be thinking, but the story doesn’t end there – by eating them raw you will almost certainly absorb less of the beta carotene in the carrots. But the point is that’s OK, you can roast them or whatever you fancy later in the week.

Holding the mayo by the way is worth it, saving a whopping 21 grams of fat per tablespoon even if you use luscious thick and creamy greek-style yogurt.

We had our coleslaw alongside jacket potatoes and chicken baked with a crispy oatmeal coating, and then again with lunches later in the week (it will stay crunchy in the fridge for a few days, much more so than the stuff from the shops). I’d made this coleslaw a few times before I saw the winter vegetable coleslaw recipe in Jamie Oliver’s new book Jamie at Home – his recipe is very similar so check that out too if you have the book. Jamie uses red onion but I’m sold on using leek which is sweeter and adds those gorgeous vibrant strands of lime green through the slaw.

Cut up the veg in whatever way suits; the fennel, leek and red cabbage can all be sliced thinly with a sharp cook’s knife or shredded in the food processor. By slicing the leek in half lengthways you can open it out to get flat sheets that are much easier to cut into strands. As I’m nearly always too lazy to get my food processor down from on top of the fridge I tend to use a knife for almost all of the prep work, and my trusty julienne peeler for the carrots (a coarse grater is fine).
p.s if you are stuck for inspiration about what to make for your loved one on valentine’s day, this time last year I posted a healthy macaroni cheese recipe which we both really love!

Recipe for Winter coleslaw

You can double up the quantities here but you will need a very large bowl.

1 large carrot, peeled
1 small bulb of fennel
A 5 inch chunk of leek
Half a red cabbage

3 tbsp natural yogurt
2 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard

Prepare the vegetables however you prefer (see notes above).
Mix the yogurt and mustard together in a small bowl
Add the yogurt/mustard mix to the vegetables and stir well to coat evenly.

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