I’ve been making a lot of cabbage salads lately. Not out of any great desire for them, but more because cabbages are cheap so I buy them and then need to use them up! Cabbages are pretty versatile too – I don’t think there’s a single cuisine in the world that can’t make use of them in some way or another. If you’re making a salad for a main course, I think the extra chewiness you get from cabbage makes it a bit more filling and substantial than softer leaves. When we were flat-hunting last summer, I had a really nice cabbage salad with cashews and an Asian dressing at the Mud Crab Café in Didsbury Village which has stuck in my mind, and probably inspired this dish in some ways.
This salad takes on a bit of a South-East Asian character, with coriander and peanuts and a bit of chilli and was just meant to be a bit of a change from the mayonnaise or tahini-based dressings I’d been using before. I adapted a Cambodian dipping sauce tucked away in the back of a Rick Stein book to make the dressing. Rather than using the authentic recipe, I swapped out the fermented black beans and palm sugar for dark soy and brown sugar to make a recipe that was a bit more accessible for you to try yourself – not everyone wants to have cupboards stuffed with obscure jars and bottles of ingredients like I do! If you want to be really traditional, I suppose pomelo would be preferred over grapefruit too. We also added a few cooked prawns to make it into a meal by itself, but I set aside some without to take to work for lunch and the peanuts make it quite rich and filling by itself. There will probably be leftover dressing, but it’s pretty difficult to not just eat it by the spoonful, so I’m sure you’ll find a use for it.
For the dressing
Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread the peanuts out on a baking tray, and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes until lightly browned and crunchy. Shake the tray every 5 minutes or so to make sure they cook evenly.
Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the cabbage and red onion into slivers as finely as you can, and set aside in a large bowl. Halve the cucumber lengthways and cut at a diagonal into thin slices, and add to the bowl. Peel the carrot and remove the ends, then slice at a diagonal into thin discs. Lie the carrot discs on top of eachother and then cut into thin strips. By all means, use a julienne peeler or a spiralizer if you have one, but don’t grate the carrot – it will release lots of liquid and change the texture of the finished dish. Add the carrot strips to the bowl. For the chilli, take a few thin rounds from the pointed end to use as garnish, then remove the seeds and pith and finely chop the rest. Add the finely chopped chilli to the bowl and toss all the vegetables together.
Prepare the grapefruit by cutting off the top and bottom, then removing the peel and pith with a sharp knife to expose the flesh. Holding the grapefruit over a bowl or plastic tub and using a thin bladed knife, remove the segments from the grapefruit. Once all the segments are free, squeeze out any remaining juice from the grapefruit pulp and set aside.
Now make the dressing. Setting aside some of the peanuts for a garnish, add all the dressing ingredients to a high-powered blended with a tablespoon or two of water, and pulse until you have a smooth sauce. Taste the dressing and if it is a little too salty for you, add more grapefruit juice – it’s the only seasoning for the salad, so it should still be a bit too salty to have alone.
To serve the salad, break up the grapefruit segments into bitesize pieces and toss together with the vegetables. Coarsely cut the coriander and mix through the salad. Given the dark colour, I think it looked nicer leaving the dressing on the side rather than presenting it all together, but if you’d rather dress it before serving, mix through the sauce and finally garnish with the reserved peanuts and sliced chilli. Serves 2-3 on its own, or more as a side salad.