Rainbow salad

Want to occupy your children in the kitchen without producing more sugary treats for the biscuit tin? This is my go-to lockdown lunch when our diets have turned a bit carb-heavy.

Lockdown means different things to each family. If you’re trying to juggle full-time work with home-schooling, you probably feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. If you’re furloughed and you have younger children, a single morning can stretch on for years, with all organised activities exhausted by 10am. This post is best suited to the latter!

It’s not always easy to convince children to tuck into a plate of vegetables, but mine have always been more willing when they’ve had a chance to try the ingredients in advance and get involved in the making of the dish.

Depending on the age of your little ones, cutting up the veg could be a good opportunty for them to practice their knife skills, though there’s still plenty for them to do if you want to take care of this stage yourself. Just arranging the rainbow is an edible craft project in itself!

Making the dressing can be a journey of discovery too. The basic mix of sweet, sour, salty and oily is infinitely customisable depending on what you’ve got to hand and it’s a good excuse to taste and sniff their way through the condiments cupboard. If you make it in a glass jar or a plastic pot with a well-fitting lid, they can take it in turns to do some competitive shaking to emulsify the mix.

My kids are crazy for mayonnaise, so we added some egg mayonnaise clouds for a bit of protein, but you could leave it out or replace with hummus or ham or whatever you think they might like.

Rainbow salad ingredient suggestions:

  • RED: Diced tomatoes, diced red pepper
  • ORANGE: Grated carrot, diced orange pepper, peeled orange segments
  • YELLOW: Cooked sweetcorn, diced yellow pepper, grated cheese
  • GREEN: Diced cucumber, cooked peas, chopped cooked green beans
  • BLUE: Tricky one – blueberries could work, or just leave it out like we did!
  • PURPLE: Diced cooked beetroot, diced radishes, stoned kalamata olives

It works best if everything is cut into similar size pieces, though I find really crunchy ingredients like carrots are better grated when you come to eat the finished salad.

Dressing ingredient suggestions:

  • OILY: Olive oil, rapeseed oil, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, sesame oil
  • SOUR: Lemon juice, cider vinegar, red/white wine vinegar, fruit vinegars
  • SWEET: Honey, sugar, maple syrup
  • SALTY: Salt (just a pinch), mustard, soy sauce
  • AROMATIC: Chopped herbs, ground spices, finely chopped shallots

I generally start my vinaigrettes by choosing a sour element and balancing it with something sweet – for example a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar and a teaspoon of caster sugar. I then season it with something salty – often a scant teaspoon of Dijon mustard – before diluting it with 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil. If you have plenty of time to fill, let the kids experiment by making a few different dressings. It’s a great way of letting them build up their own internal taste encyclopedia and all you’ll waste is a few spoonfuls of oil if it goes a bit wrong.

Get them to construct a salad for any adults in the house too and all sit down together. Encourage them to try each colour individually, then different combinations of colours to see which flavours work together the best.

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