Monday, January 17, 2011

Carrotless coleslaw (with kebabs)

On a 34-degree Sunday afternoon in mid-January, what else could I decide to do for dinner but barbecue? Chicken kebabs (p137) naturally sprang to mind, and since the Edmonds recipe includes veges that are currently in season, it seemed like the ideal choice.

I set some kebab skewers to soak in the afternoon, and as the heat of the day began to recede and I started feeling like eating again (I never feel hungry when it's hot), I made a start on the kebabs. I chopped up a couple of chicken thighs and set them to marinate in a simple mixture of sweet chilli and soy sauces.

I was also going to need a salad. Coleslaw (p176) is a traditional barbecue favourite, but when I looked at the recipe, I found it quite different from the sort of coleslaw I'm familiar with. All coleslaws are based on raw cabbage, but I'd usually add carrot, perhaps cheese and maybe some apple.

The basic Edmonds recipe includes the usual cabbage, along with sliced green pepper, diced celery and a little finely chopped onion. Carrot is included in the list of possible variations, but it's not part of the standard recipe. Intrigued by the thought of a coleslaw with no carrot, I decided to stick pretty much to the basic recipe.

There are also four possible dressings given for the coleslaw - French dressing, yoghurt dressing, mayonnaise or blue cheese dressing. I'd usually use a mayonnaise, so the possibility of a vinaigrette was a new concept. But in the end, I chose to make blue cheese dressing (p183) merely because I hadn't ticked that one off yet.

Blue cheese dressing is a mixture of blue cheese, sour cream, crushed garlic, and enough milk to thin it down a bit. The recipe indicates 50-100g of blue cheese; I chose to keep the quantity fairly low so the flavour wouldn't be too overpowering. It's not that I dislike blue cheese, but it very soon becomes too much of a good thing, so I prefer to use it sparingly.

With the dressing made, I chopped up my coleslaw ingredients and got them in a bowl. While I ignored most of the long list of possible additions, I did add some chopped walnuts, thinking they would go quite well with the blue cheese.

Having stirred the dressing through the coleslaw, I put the bowl in the fridge and took out the veges I needed for the kebabs: courgette, red pepper and onion. I chopped these into bite-sized pieces and threaded them onto skewers interspersed with pieces of marinated chicken.

When I chopped the veges, I'd forgotten that I'd decided on a half-recipe when I prepared the chicken. This meant that my kebabs were a bit heavy on the onion and capsicum, but never mind. I wound up with four good-sized kebabs and one made up of leftover bits.

As soon as I got the kebabs on the barbie I realised I should have paid more attention to making my pieces regular in size. The pieces of pepper and courgette were large enough in places to keep the chicken from touching the surface of the barbecue, and I had a difficult time getting them all to cook evenly. In hindsight, the chicken thighs I used probably weren't the best option. On the whole, I prefer thigh meat, but it tends to make for uneven, scraggly pieces. Cubes of breast would have worked better.

I was tempted at times to take the kebabs off the barbecue and put them under the grill, but in the end I persisted, constantly turning and basting the kebabs, until they were cooked.

My kebabs and coleslaw made a pretty good meal. I'd succeeded in getting all the chicken cooked through without drying it out, the marinade was tasty, and you can't beat that slightly charry barbecue flavour. The onion was a bit overpowering, but that was probably because there was a disproportionally large amount of it - there should have been more chicken and courgette to even it out.

I was quite taken with the coleslaw. It was beautifully crunchy - probably my favourite thing about any coleslaw is the texture. The blue cheese dressing and walnuts (and lack of carrot) turned it into something quite different from what I'd usually expect from a coleslaw.

I'll be making both of these dishes again - simple, tasty food, ideal for a Summer evening.

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