The ‘store cupboard salad without lettuce’ salad.
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A confusing title, yes? This salad is a flexible little number that is more about embracing what you have knocking about than it is about making a perfect blend of flavours. The weather is warming up nicely and our minds are automatically turning towards fresher foods I think? If not our minds then our expanding lock down figures might just be! We don’t need austerity food to make these days any darker but daily fresh produce shopping is also out. And so, the lockdown salad is born! It tastes as if it is packed with fresh goodies but is actually mainly a store cupboard meal.

As this is a flexible recipe it doesn’t require exact measurements and ingredients. Instead, I have written in stages and given ideas on what to add. It makes for a longer read but I am going to make an assumption that at the moment you have time to read it. Life is going at a slower pace at the moment, relax into it, take the long recipe, try a new meal. The below is a method of building small amounts of ingredients and flavours in and using the food you have available to pack in as much goodness, filling power and taste as you possibly can. As you may be aware if you have read previous posts, I am a store cupboard fan. At times like this I am grateful for having a well stocked store cupboard. We are not on a big budget by any means but adding an extra one or two things to the trolley every week really does help.

First layer The grain.

Any grain will do here, use what you have. Cous cous, bulgar wheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice.

Second layerThe stock.

Cook the grain in any flavouring you have available. Stock cubes, bouillon, dried herbs, spices, tomato puree. The main goal here is to get as much flavour into the grain as possible.

Third layerThe store cupboard goodies.

The final salad should be a maximum of 50% grain and the remainder a mixture of other ingredients. This is a rule of thumb, in an ideal world. This is not an ideal world so use whatever quantity you have available. Just keep in mind that the more ingredients the more flavour so aim to get as large a variety as you can in there.

In a food processor pulse any combination of store cupboard staples. You know, the edible bits you have lurking right at the back? That impulse purchase jar of something you haven’t used – this is its moment! You are aiming for a pulsed chunky paste which you then add to the grain. If you don’t have a food processor then finally chop solid ingredients and add to grain then stir in any pastes. Jarred sundried tomatoes – don’t waste the oil, olives, pickled onions, gherkins, capers, beetroot, miso, harissa, jarred chillis – anything you have in the cupboard!

Fourth layerAdd some extra filling power.

This can be frozen vegetables (of course cook them first!), dried fruit, tinned beans like butter bean, black bean, etc or pulses. Add to the grains. If you don’t have anything, leave this stage out.

Fifth layerIn with the fresh stuff.

This is the part that is going to bring that fresh, summery feeling to the salad. It is a good way to use up small amounts of fresh produce that aren’t substantial on their own. Whatever you have chop finely and add to the salad bowl. A single tomato, stump of cucumber, some radish, a handful of grated carrot, onion. If you have fresh herbs they really lift this dish. If you don’t now is a perfect time to beg, steal, borrow or buy seeds online to start a herb garden. A few fresh herbs make such a difference.

Sixth layerThe final flourish.

By now you should have your grains and all other ingredients in one big bowl, right? All you need to do now is season and taste. If it needs a lift add a small amount of acid – lemon/lime juice would be my first choice but use whatever vinegar you have. Even a drop of pickle vinegar will work.

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