Red cabbage slaw with pear and fennel yogurt dressing

Who doesn’t love a good freshly made crunchy coleslaw? What’s great is its versatility to make it your own with different combinations of contrasting flavours, textures and colours. Any variety of cabbage works well as a base – kale, cavolo nero, hispi cabbage – then ‘build’ from there.

Fennel, pear and walnut are always going to go happily hand in hand so, for me, it’s a good place to start. I like the dramatic colour of red cabbage but make sure you slice it finely so it doesn’t dominate and become tricky to eat. Nobody wants to chomp on huge chunks of raw cabbage! The contrasting sharpness of the red onion against the sweet pear is welcome but I’ve pickled it in some lemon juice first, to subdue the rawness and astringency.

The yogurt dressing flavoured with fennel seeds keeps things nice and light. Remember to reserve the fennel fronds from the tops of the bulb to add for an extra hit of aniseed. The dressing is a million miles away from the artery-clogging and heavy mayonnaise supermarket coleslaws you can find. You may not need all the dressing so use as much as you like, so as not to drown it.

The coleslaw is sufficient and delicious enough to eat solo for a lunch, or it makes a great side dish to a buttery jacket potato or anything porky, particularly slices of succulent roast gammon or ham.

Serves 2

Fennel yogurt dressing
Heaped ½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted
75ml Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra virgin
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp water
Pinch sea salt

Slaw
Half red onion, thinly sliced
Quarter lemon, juice only
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Quarter red cabbage, shredded finely
1 large ripe conference pear, peeled, cored and sliced
Generous handful walnuts, toasted
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
Large handful of parsley, chopped

  1. Bash the fennel seeds to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar. Then add to a jam jar, along with the rest of the dressing ingredients, and shake vigorously.
  1. Slice the red onion on a mandolin or as fine as possible using a sharp knife. Put the red onion in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon with a pinch of salt. Set aside for five minutes.
  1. Slice the fennel on a mandolin and put in a serving bowl along with the red cabbage, pear, walnuts, seeds and parsley. 
  1. Add enough of the dressing to lightly coat the coleslaw, gently mix then serve.