I spend a fortune on salad boxes. At least twice a week, I find myself at a salad buffet, filling up a teeny-tiny plastic tupperware box that I could frankly make myself for half the price.
“That will be £6.50 please” says a skinny girl with dreadlocks.
“£6.50? But I only got a small box?!” I blurt out.
“Yeah but you pay by weight” she says, looking me up and down. What the hell did she mean by that? She snatches my tenner our of my hand and replaces it with a few pound coins.
Have I just been robbed and insulted? When did we start paying for things by weight? No salad should ever cost more than a fiver, no matter how much it weighs or how much halloumi you manage to cram in it.
I look down disappointedly at my little box, for something so small, it really is rather heavy (the girl may have had a point). It looks visibly stressed, all angry and shmooshed pressed up against the plastic. Sorry salad, I feel like I’ve killed you.
Anyway I tip it out onto a plate and scoff the lot at my desk and as usual, it’s under seasoned, underwhelming and disappointing.
Well no more! I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own buffet style salad, minus the disappointment.
I find the key to building a good salad box is to keep it simple but a bit exotic. Treat yourself to a few of your deli favourites, add a bit of roasted veg, a sprinkle of seeds and you’re good to go. Take that dreadlock girl! You’re not getting you’re hands on my £6.50 this week.
How to build your salad:
2 handfuls of leaves: If buying a bag of salad I would stick to either rocket, watercress or spinach, they last longer than the mixed varieties. I tend to buy baby gem or just a regular lettuce and chop it up as I need it. It’s cheaper and can last up to a week.
1 handful of vegetables: Here are a few ideas I like that are quick and easy to make yourself. You only need to pick one of these… Baked sweet potato/butternut squash, minted new potatoes, roasted carrots with dill and lemon (see recipe) mixed roasted vegetables, tomato and onion salad (see recipe), roasted peppers. Feeling lazy? Then shop bought deli artichokes or even jarred peppers such as Karats Roasted Red Peppers are delicious and a great substitute.
Pick your star: Mine is nearly always cheese, 50g of either feta, mozzarella, goats cheese or halloumi. For a more substation lunch though, I like to also include either a boiled eggs (hard boiled these can last up to a week in the fridge), half an avocado or even quorn. (If you eat meat this is your chance to add a bit of cooked chicken or fish).
Make it hearty with 2 tablespoons of… Couscous, brown rice, five bean salad (see recipe) quinoa, pasta salad (see recipe). You don’t need to make much of this, 100g should be enough for the week.
A sprinkle of crunch: This is optional but I always like to sprinkle my salads with either pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, croutons or pomegranate seeds to give it some bite.
Carbs: I literally can’t eat a salad without at least a little bit of bread. I like a mini pitta, a small brown flat bread or even a couple of oat cakes.
Dress is up: 1 tablespoon of either homemade dressing (see recipe) shop bought dressing, humous, zatziki or even a good drizzle of chilli sauce.
Extra acidity: Again this is optional but I always think a salad is greatly improved by acidity, tang and bit of heat. I always include a few olives, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and some sort of pickle, whether is be a couple of pickled onions, gherkins, pickled chillies or jalapeños.
So there you have it! The building blocks to make your very own buffet salad without the buffet. Here are a few of my favourite staples to get you started…
Roasted carrots with dill and lemon dressing:
Preheat an oven to 220°C (200°C fan). Peel and chop two large carrots and pop them on a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spray them with spray oil. Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes before giving them a quick turn with a spatular. Continue to cook for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile chop a small handful of dill and make the dressing by combining 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Once the carrots are roasted leave to cool fully. Once cool, tip the carrots into a bowl and stir in the dressing and the chopped dill. Put in an airtight container and keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Five been salad:
I literally buy a can Napolina Five Beans, strain them and give them a quick rinse (not too much or you’ll lose the flavour as they are slightly spiced). I then add a finely chopped stick of celery and that’s it! Pop in an air tight container and use within 3 days.
Cucumber, feta and olive salad:
Peel and chop half a cucumber and pop it into a bowl with a sprinkle of salt. Roughly chop a large handful of black pitted olives (roughly 80g) and add this to the cucumber. Crumble over half a pack of feta cheese (around 100g) and give it all a good mix. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Tomato and onion salad:
Slice 2 tomatoes along with a few slices of peeled red onion. Season well with salt and black pepper and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. (This is so easy that you don’t even really need to pre-prepare it, you could just chop them up in the morning if you have time before work.)
Whole baked sweet potato: Preheat an oven to 220°C (180°C fan). Carefully score a sweet potato with a sharp knife along the skin and insert into the centre. Withdraw the knife and pop in the oven for 40 minutes turning half way through. Leave to cool before cutting up and adding to salads. Wrap in foil and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Pesto pasta salad: Cook 50g wholewheat pasta according to instructions. Once cooked, drain and cool with a stream of cold water before returning it back into the saucepan. Cover with cold water and leave to cool. Drain again. Stir through a tablespoon of your favourite pesto (I like Sacla’s Chargrilled Aubergine). Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate for 3 days.
Dressing: I like to keep it simple when it comes to salad dressing so I tend to stick to honey and mustard, I find it also goes with almost any salad. For a single salad I would use 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar and mix together in a small ramekin. Add a quarter teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a drizzle of honey. Season with salt and pepper and stir again until combined. Sometimes I even add a teaspoon of humous to make a creamier more indulgent dressing.
If you ever needed an excuse to buy some snazzy Tupperware then surely this is it. I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with Tupperware but this is my current favourite by Box Appetit, I have two of the same box, one in pink and one in green and I use them all the time. Happy lunching everyone!
If you’ve had a go at making my salad or any of my recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org