Creating the perfect salad
It’s definitely salad season right now, but there’s a big difference between a handful of iceberg lettuce and some sliced cucumber, and a nutritionally-dense, ‘super salad’. Read on to learn the basic ingredients that will take your salad to the next level. The best thing is that these can be put together in minutes, perfect for taking to work, or grabbing during a quiet moment.
1. Build your base
Any kind of green leaves make a great base for salads – iceberg, little gem, baby spinach, rocket etc. Try to vary your base through the week to get a variety of leaves into your diet. You can even add a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs for an extra ‘zing’ of flavour.
2. Boost the colour
Next add some colourful raw veggies – peppers, tomatoes, grated carrots, radishes etc. Batch cooking some roasted vegetables at the weekend is another great way to add variety and colour with minimum fuss. Good options are root vegetables like beetroot, carrot and sweet potato; or Mediterranean veg like aubergine, red pepper, courgette and red onion. Keep them in the fridge and add a spoonful to your salad.
3. Add protein
This could be a tin of fish, some leftover chicken, eggs, chickpeas, quinoa, lentils, or cheese. Crumbled feta, or some lightly fried halloumi are great options.
4. Don’t forget healthy fats
Healthy fats – avocado, olives, olive oil, oily fish – are key to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Dice half an avocado, throw in a handful of olives or pour a good glug of olive oil over your finished salad.
5. Make sure you’ve got ‘crunch’
Adding a sprinkle of something that gives texture to your salad can make all the difference! A couple of tablespoons of raw or toasted pumpkin seeds, a handful of chopped walnuts or some sliced radishes or carrots will all give a crunch to each mouthful.
6. Drizzle a dressing
You can opt for a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey, or use plain yoghurt or tahini as the base. Add olive oil, half a clove of crushed garlic and some mint for a Greek-style flavour.
Once you have the basics in mind, it’s so easy to throw together a delicious, nutritious salad from the ingredients you have in the fridge. However, if you’d like some recipe suggestions, then these are tried and tested favourites…
A mason-jar salad
You might have seen mason jar salads on social media. They’re great – and not just because they look cool in a photo. It’s easy to make a couple of day’s-worth in one go, saving you time in the kitchen. They are also economical with storage space in the fridge.
It is a kind of upside-down way to make your salad but ensures the whole lot doesn’t go soggy by lunchtime. Simply empty it out onto a plate when you’re ready for it and the ingredients you put in first (the wetter ingredients) end up on the top, while the more delicate ingredients like the salad leaves end up on the bottom without being squashed.
Here’s how you make your own in 5 simple steps:
The dressing goes in first. This is really important as it guarantees the leaves don’t get soggy. Add enough so it can (eventually) coat all your ingredients.
Next pop in your robust veg like beetroot or fennel.
You can then add any softer veg like cucumber or green beans.
Don’t forget your healthy fats – put in some olives or avocado.
Add a layer of protein – tuna, chicken, egg, tofu – as well as any other things you’re using like cheese, nuts or seeds – those ingredients that you want to stay dry until just before you eat it.
The leafy greens go in last. That way they’re kept nice and dry and, when you turn the jar over and empty onto your plate, the leaves make the salad bed.
Greek style quinoa bowl
2 cups rocket
100g cooked quinoa
80g artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup assorted Greek olives
3 tbsp tzatziki
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper
Assemble the bowls, starting with the rocket, then add the quinoa, followed by all the other ingredients. Drizzle the tzatziki and olive oil as a dressing when ready to eat.
Oriental chicken salad
2 cooked, skinless chicken breasts, shredded
1 medium carrot, grated
1/4 cucumber, grated
1/2 small red onion, grated
2 handfuls of bean sprouts
Small handful of fresh mint leaves
1 red pepper, sliced
25g unsalted cashew nuts, roughly chopped
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp tamari soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed Juice of half a lime
Mix all the vegetables, mint, nuts and chicken in a bowl. Stir the dressing ingredients together in a bowl, pour over the salad, mix well and serve.