A recent lunchtime visit to a favourite cafe on the South Side meant just one thing for me:  the crunchy salad, please!  I was so taken by the idea of this salad that I was inspired to try a version at home a bit more suited to our tastes (ie not only chicken-free but celery-free!).  I’m pleased to say the result will be a keeper, judging by the giant amounts that we polished off that day.  I love all the colours in this salad, and the combination of all the different kinds of crunch together with the tangy-sweet creaminess of the dressing binding it all together.

It’s essentially a coleslaw-based salad (the coleslaw dressing is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe), tossed with green salad leaves to lighten it, with a few other bits and pieces added just for fun.  I love caramelised pecans in a salad, but if you are pressed for time or it’s just too hot to turn on the oven, just regular pecans will do fine.  And the crunchy noodle bits?  Well, there’s no real reason why they should work in a coleslaw, but trust me: they’re worth a try here.

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Crunchy salad with apple and caramelised pecans

For the dressing
100g whole-egg mayonnaise (about 1/2 cup)
3 tbsp buttermilk
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp apple or cider vinegar

For the salad
1/2 cup caramelised pecans*
1/4 red cabbage, shredded
1 medium carrot, grated
2 spring onions, sliced finely
125g mixed salad leaves
1/2 red apple, thinly sliced and tossed in a little lemon juice
1/3 cup crunchy noodle pieces (ready-to-eat, from a packet)

* To make basic caramelised pecans, spread the nuts on a tray lined with baking paper.  Sprinkle over 1 tsp icing sugar, and roast in at 200C for about 10 minutes, checking frequently.  They should be done when the nuts are slightly darker in colour and smell wonderful.  Set aside to cool before using.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients till well combined.  Then throw in the shredded cabbage, grated carrot and spring onions, and turn well to coat the vegetables evenly in the dressing.

In a large serving bowl, mix together the salad leaves, cabbage mixture, apple slices, pecans and noodle pieces.  Serve immediately.

Yield: about 3-4 meal sized servings

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