As we were returning back home from our short winter escape to Sylt, basically crossing the country in a vertical line of about 800km, the progress of Spring nosing its way in couldn’t have been more obvious. The further south we got, the – for lack of a better word – juicier the landscape appeared to get. What started with miniature yarnballs stalking their equally fluffy mommy-yarnballs and merrily playing sheep-catch between blossoming heather shrubs in the northern regions, quickly turned into foresty areas sporting a first hint of green, violently colorful patches of crocus breaking up the still-dominant dullish brown here and there and, of course, the… well, juicy brown of freshly turned soil on the fields.
The last nails in Winter’s coffin presented themselves once we had passed the shadows of the last low mountain range bordering our home region – the first signs of the upcoming kitchen-delights! Neatly piled up rows of soil being readied for this year’s asparagus season as well as fields of early, low-growing leafy things, fragrant spring leeks and herbs. While, of course, temperatures and weather won’t actually agree with the rest of mother nature for a bit longer, my urge to delve into spring-cuisine turned irresistible during this particular road trip leading us out of Winter, into Spring over the course of 7 hours. Since the aforementioned living yarnballs and heather shrubs had planted a vivid purple-and-white color-scheme into my head, I decided to visually tweak one of my favorite spring’y salads, a mung bean sprout, spring leek and cauliflower salad, to air out the heavy of Winter cuisine… as soon as I had shaken off the effects of the trip~
These amounts will net you 4 servings as a starter or 2 servings as a main.
The Mung Bean Sprout Salad
400g Mung Bean Sprouts
50-75g Leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced into disks or half-moons
6 Large Leaves of Thai Basil, finely sliced
12-16 Bite-Sized pieces of Purple Cauliflower – “normal” cauliflower works just as well
Alt: 12-16 Bite-Sized pieces of Long-Stemmed Broccoli
400ml Coconut Milk
¼ Tsp Bird’s Eye Chilli Flakes or 1 fresh Bird’s Eye
2 Kaffir Lime Leaves
1 Slice of Galangal, ½ cm thick
2 Slices of Ginger, ½ cm thick
½ Lime, Zest
1 Lime, Juice
1 small Stalk of Lemongrass, finely grated – freeze the stalk to make grating it easier
Salt to taste
Opt: Brown Sugar to adjust the acidity of the dressing
1) Before you get started on the main event, cook your cauliflower or broccoli in lightly salted, simmering water until they are tender in a non-mushy-soft kind of way.
2) To preserve it’s color and bite, dump the veggies into a bowl filled with water and, if possible, a bunch of ice cubes to make the cooking process come to a screeching halt. Good quality, blanched-and-frozen cauliflower is a viable option in this case, just make sure to thaw it slowly by placing it in the fridge for a couple of hours to keep it from turning soggy. Broccoli of the same kind often turns out to be too crunchy around the stems and, at the same time, overcooked around the buds for my liking, so I’d advise against that particular shortcut.
3) Pour the coconut milk into a small pot and set it onto low heat.
4) Add the kaffir leaves, lime zest, chilli, lemongrass as well as the galangal and ginger disks.
5) Should you find yourself in the mood for a gingery boost, chop up the disks a bit more to create a bigger aroma-releasing surface. For a boost in the lemongrass department, pop in the upper, strawy parts that will no doubt have resisted your attempts at grating them, as well.
6) Add a pinch of salt and give the lot a good stir.
7) Allow the mixture to infuse for about 10 mins – make sure the coconut milk doesn’t start to boil during that time.
8) Have a taste, checking for the balance of the spices you’ve used. If the citrusy aromas are on par with the ginger and the heat of the chilli, you’re golden. If not, add whatever is missing on your tastebuds and give the lot another 5 mins to infuse.
9) Once you’re satisfied, strain the coconut milk through a sieve and pour it back into the pot.
10) Turn the heat to medium and add the leeks.
11) Get them up to a gentle simmer and continue to cook them for around 5-7 mins until they’re tender, the strands separating at a light spoon-prod.
12) Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice.
13) Have another taste-check, with an extra tastebud focused on the salt and acidity levels in the mixture this time. Adjust them with more salt and brown sugar if necessary.
14) Fold in the basil strips, set the pot aside and give the herb 2 mins in the hot dressing to release its aroma while the liquids are cooling down a tad.
15) Meanwhile, place the bean sprouts in a large mixing bowl.
16) Pour the hot dressing into the bow holding your sprouts and give the lot a quick toss to distribute the dressing. The sprouts will soften just a little without loosing their crunch. If, of course, you want them to be on the softer side of things, pop on a lid and leave the sprouts to soften for a few more mins until you’re satisfied.
17) Divide the leeky sprouts onto two plates and arrange the cauliflower bites on top.
18) Drizzle the servings with the remaining dressing and serve the salad immediately~