Scrap the boring salads and soggy Caesar’s. And forget the lunch-dash meal deals. Instead, take your office salads to the next level with these 9 healthy hacks from Joey OHare, chef and co-founder at London’s veg-centric café, High Mood Food. Fresh, nutritious, veggie and – most importantly – delicious lunches guaranteed.
1. Cooked grains
Grain-based salads travel well. So if dinner involves cooked grains – whether it’s rice, quinoa, spelt or whatever – cook a little extra. Muddle them up with simple veggies, a handful of rocket and feta cheese for tomorrow’s lunchbox salad.
2. Go nuts!
Kilner jars of toasted nuts and seeds are my go-to for adding nutritional oomph to salads, as well as flavour and texture of course. They have satiating good fats that help to fill me up. At High Mood, we activate all our nuts which makes them easier to digest and boosts the bioavailability of nutrients. You can do this simply enough at home by soaking nuts in a salty water solution, then drying them out in a low oven. There are plenty of guides online to help you, or pop in for a ready-made jar to take-away.
3. Dukkah, dukkah, dukkah!
This north African seasoning of toasted nuts, seeds and spices is a super-simple way of instantly injecting awesome texture and flavour into any veg-centric dish. I’ve yet to find something it doesn’t go well with! Try activating your nuts, like we do (see above). Hazelnut and sesame seed dukkah is my favourite.
4. Ferment to be good
For me, good veg-centric cooking relies entirely on the complexity of flavour you get from fermented foods. Without them, veggie eating is flat. I like to add a little kraut or kimchi to my salads. Making your own is super-easy, and means you can add the spices and flavours you like. At High Mood, we make a curried coleslaw kraut and a green vegan kimchi, using wild British seaweed to emulate that deep umami flavour.
5. Use the ferment brine!
Kraut or kimchi brine makes an awesome dressing! The lactic-acid bacteria which builds during fermentation is tangy and complex, not to mention beneficial for your gut health. Try dressing a cucumber salad with kimchi brine, for example – super refreshing. If you dress with brine, remember to leave out salt when you season.
6. Sprout ‘em
Mung beans or puy lentils only need 24 hours in filtered water, a good rinse, and a few days at room temperature to offer a nutritionally awesome and texturally exciting salad topping.
7. Roast those greens
Any greens are worth roasting. And if it’s a random medley of whatever’s in your veggie draw, then all the better! If you’ve got a few different greens, don’t worry about varying roasting times – some might char while others stay al-dente but that will help to layer up texture. Roasting on a high heat achieves a much deeper flavour than blanching or steaming.
Roast your greens 🥦🥦🌱. Blanching or boiling is all well and good, but the complexity of flavour in roasted brassicas is next level 👌💚. Top tip: aim from ‘charred and crunchy’ by using a super hot oven/grill with the rack at the top… the broccoli or cauliflower will continue to soften as it cools so always aim for ‘al dente’ 👌💚. * Roasted broccoli currently in our Tempeh-ting (vegan) and Pescatarian High Bowls. * #gowithyourgut #slowfoodfast #highmoodfood #vegcentric #flexitarian #roastedveggies #char #grilled #eatyourgreens #plantbased #superfood #HighBowl
8. Jar it!
I’ve been using a tiny ‘airplane-size’ jar for months. They’re handy for storing and transporting your salad dressings. Just pop it in your Tupperware along with your salad, ready for dressing at lunchtime. Which means no more soggy leaves withering at the bottom.
9. Dress to impress
Dress your salad generously and muddle the ingredients together well (just make sure you don’t do it before taking it to work to avoid soggy, wilted salad leaves). If you have access to bowls at work, I highly recommend dressing your salad in the bowl! Dressing your salad well will help your flavours mingle and it’s far more interesting than a naked salad with dressing just drizzled on top.