Given how much I enjoy coleslaw – it’s a must-have accompaniment to breaded chicken fillets, deep fried chicken and chicken burgers, not to mention perfect picnic food – it’s a little surprising to me that I rarely made my own; it’s not exactly complicated to shred some raw vegetables and toss in a home-made dressing, after all.
But I always struggle to decide which recipe to use for the dressing. I’ve found many recipes for mayonnaise sweetened with a little sugar or tarted up with horseradish or mustard. I’ve found yoghurt-based recipes and recipes for buttermilk with maple syrup. I’ve found recipes for dairy-free vinaigrette versions. I’ve even found a recipe for a flour-based roux “mayonnaise” that looked like no mayonnaise I’ve ever heard of!
But when I asked friends for tried and tested suggestions, one recommendation immediately stood out:
My friend Jaxie told me about her partner’s condensed milk and vinegar dressing, assuring me that although it “sounds insane”, actually, “it’s bloody delicious”. As I love condensed milk in coffee, there’s always some in our house, so I just had to give this unusual coleslaw dressing a try.
She advised that her partner TS adds mustard powder for extra flavour, but I had a eureka moment and decided to use some wonderfully smoky sweet paprika I bought from a Spanish market in London last May. I chose cider vinegar instead of TS’ malt vinegar as I love the gentle fruitiness it provides.
All I can say is “Wow” – this was definitely a winner!
The tart vinegar balances out the intensely sweet condensed milk. The smoky paprika gives a fabulously earthy flavour that brings to mind the smoky aromas of a summer barbecue.
For me, an equal amount of cider vinegar and condensed milk created just the right balance, but you can adjust the ratio to create a sweeter or sharper dressing if you prefer.
Although I’ve provided approximate amounts for the salad vegetables, I suggest you grate as much or little coleslaw as you like, mix up a batch of dressing and mix it in a little at a time until you have a ratio of salad to dressing that works best for you.
You can always mix up another batch of dressing if you need more.
Smoky Paprika Coleslaw | An Unusual But Winning Recipe
For the salad
- 150 grams white cabbage (about a quarter)
- 150 grams red cabbage (about a quarter)
- 150 grams carrot (about 1 medium)
For the dressing
- 3 tbsp condensed milk
- 3 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
The salad ingredients are, to my mind, the three core choices for a traditional coleslaw. You might also like to add red or white onion or sliced spring onion greens.
Make sure you use sweet smoked paprika rather than the hot kind. The smokiness is key to the flavour of this dressing and sweet paprika gives a pleasing but mild kick.
Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Add a little more vinegar or condensed milk if you would like the dressing to be a touch tarter or sweeter. Taste, adjust seasoning and set aside.
Remove any damaged or tough outer cabbage leaves. Wash your vegetables. Top, tail and peel the carrot.
Grate your vegetables using a food processor or finely shred by hand. Mix together in a large bowl.
Add the dressing to the salad and combine thoroughly. If you prefer lightly dressed coleslaw, you can add the dressing in batches, mix well and add more as required.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
I absolutely love the simple combination of condensed milk and cider vinegar, and will definitely make this again, not just for coleslaw but as a general salad dressing.
The addition of a generous amount of smoky sweet paprika provided a very distinctive flavour for my coleslaw but you could stick to TS’s original suggestion of mustard powder or try other spices and herbs, to ring the changes.