This is primarily a DIY recipe that comes to the rescue of people who think salad is boring and/or can’t be bothered to cook.
You will need to stretch yourself to make a Basic French Dressing and maybe boil some eggs (only if they take your fancy), but the final eating experience will far surpass your expectations of wading your way through a plateful of bog-standard salad.
Not only are these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars as pretty as a picture (thank you Sarah at Mirror Imaging), conveniently portion controlled (no fighting over a communal salad bowl for the best bits), fun to eat and packed with nutrients - their airtight seals means they can be assembled up to 24 hours ahead and everything will stay just as fresh and perky as it was when first prepared.
The key to success is layering a ‘rainbow’ of different, complementary salad ingredients that are shredded or very finely sliced (use a mandolin, if you have one), so that every forkful is a delightfully surprising, light and easy-to-eat, flavour fest.
Ideally packaged for picnics, for taking to the office or when you’re working away from home - I conjured up these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars in anticipation of a long-distance photographic assignment that involved an overnight stay, which would have prevented Sarah and I from eating ‘right’ (low-carb, organic, real food), for more than 24 hours. However, don’t save these perfectly balanced, perfectly dressed, ready-to-go salad jars just for on-the-hoof dining. They’re much too good for that. I now regularly bring them to the table whenever I want to add more plant-based nutritional oomph, colour and interest to everyday family meals.
You can either let your imagination run riot and buy a variety of fresh, salad ingredients to make these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars from scratch, or else ferret around in the bottom of your fridge for inspiration. It doesn’t take too much in the way of vegetables, herbs, salad leaves and other tasty tidbits to fill a 700ml Kilner jar with good-for-you things in contrasting colours, flavours and textures.
Filling the Kilner jars is more like flower arranging than cooking. Simply take your time to neatly layer your chosen ingredients roughly in the order I’ve listed below and these bright and beautiful Lucky-Dip Salad Jars speak for themselves.
You’ll discover a ’lucky-dip’ each time you dive deep into your personal salad jar because every forkful you randomly skewer is a different combination of ingredients and flavours. It’s such a novel and moreish way to eat salad, even I don’t remember what I’ve loaded my jars with until I start eating one!
What I do know is that these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars are a convenience food that has all of the pleasure and none of the pain it takes to feed yourself healthy.
Useful tips before you start…
You’ll need a 700-750ml, sterilised, clip-top, wide-mouthed, Kilner jar for each person - see Notes below.
Make a Basic French Dressing (see recipe below) before you start preparing the rest of your ingredients.
Select your ingredients from the suggestions listed and, if at all possible, buy organic to avoid eating chemical residues along with your salad!
Let your imagination be the limit of these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars rather than the ingredients I’ve put forward for consideration, which could have gone on ad infinitum! Okay, maybe I can’t resist a few more…hummus, orange/grapefruit segments, sweet peppers, red or white chicory, very finely sliced raw cabbage, toasted seeds (sunflower, flax, pumpkin), smoked mackerel, smoked salmon, sardines, prawns, blanched asparagus, cucumber etc. etc.
The approximate amounts given alongside each ingredient are per salad jar, but much depends on how many different ingredients you’ve chosen to use. If you’re using several ingredients of a similar type e.g. grated raw carrots and grated raw beetroot, you’ll probably need to scale back the amounts of each to 50 grams to make a 100 grams in total.
Layer your prepared salad ingredients in roughly the order I’ve given below. They’re organised like this for a reason - for example, grated purple beetroot would need to go into the bottom of the jar first so it doesn’t ‘bleed’ into the rest of your ingredients and delicate leafy greens go into the jar last so they don’t get squashed, bruised or soggy.
Lucky-Dip Salad Jars
Basic French Dressing
1 level tsp Himalayan pink salt or fine sea salt
1 tsp Organic Dijon mustard
2 tbsp Freshly squeezed organic lemon juice or cider vinegar
Freshly milled black pepper
6 tbsp Organic extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed macadamia nut oil
1 tsp Organic honey or maple syrup or 2-3 drops organic liquid stevia
Put all the ingredients into a screw-topped jar and shake vigorously.
Lucky Dip Salad Jar Ingredients (per jar)
2 tbsp Basic French Dressing
Then choose from the following suggestions:
100g Grated purple beetroot
100g Grated carrots
100g Grated golden beetroot
40g Finely sliced raw ‘button’ or closed cap mushrooms, white or brown
30g Finely sliced raw fennel
30g Finely sliced celery
30g Finely sliced, kohlrabi
30g Finely sliced radishes
4 x Quail’s eggs, hard boiled or 1 x large hen’s egg, hard boiled and sliced
25g Finely grated mature Cheddar or Parmesan
25g Feta cheese, cut into cubes
50g Tinned tuna, drained and mashed with 1 tbsp mayonnaise, if liked
½ Avocado, dressed in 1 tsp lemon or lime juice
60g Whole cherry tomatoes
Nuts & Seeds
25-30g Pine nuts, or other nuts e.g. almond flakes, macadamias, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts etc. lightly toasted and roughly chopped, if required
10-15g Pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, sesame seeds etc., lightly toasted
Leafy Greens & Herbs
25g Baby leaf spinach,
25g Baby red chard
25g Mixed baby salad leaves
25g Shredded romaine lettuce
10g Sprouting seeds of your choice - broccoli, clover, mustard, radish, onion, alfalfa etc.
1 tbsp Finely chopped herbs - coriander, mint, dill, parsley, chives etc.
Instructions To Assemble Lucky-Dip Salad Jars
Place 1 tbsp of dressing in the bottom of each jar.
Start layering up your selected ingredients roughly in the order listed above.
Seal the lid on tight and refrigerate.
When you’re ready to eat, drizzle another 1 tablespoon of dressing on top of the salad, re-seal the jar then tip upside down and shake well.
Dive in with a fork to enjoy!
I subsequently discovered the seemingly best-shaped 700ml Tala jars that feature in this blog post were not dishwasher proof, as described on Amazon’s website. You need to make sure that the clips that secure your Kilner jars are stainless steel; the Tala ones corroded and went rusty after just one round in the dishwasher!
450-500ml Kilner jars would be a better size for children and would still have sufficient space to layer a variety of ingredients that hopefully they’ll want to eat.
As far as possible, when selecting your salad ingredients make the most of each season’s fruits and vegetables and buy organic. This makes sense because it provides your body with what it needs nutritionally at different times of the year.
There’s a bit of guesswork involved in the total amount of ingredients you need to use to fill the jars attractively. Having decided on what ingredients I’m going to use to assemble my jars, I usually eyeball the quantities of each item I need to prep (chop, finely shred, grate etc.), before separately weighing and layering that particular ingredient equally between the number of jars I’m filling. I then prepare, weigh and continue to layer-up the rest of the ingredient in the same way until the jars are full.
Don’t forget to take a fork and a small, tightly-sealed glass jar of Basic French Dressing with you if you intend eating while you’re out and about.