For my lunch today I celebrated the unseasonably warm weather we've been enjoying here in south-west England with a salad. And not just any old salad – a salad in a jar!
I fear I'm a bit late to the party when it comes to food in a jar. No longer the preserve (see what I did there?) of jams and chutneys, it seems that jars are being used to package and present all kinds of foods – from breakfast oats (see my overnight oats recipe) to salads like this one, even cakes and desserts. And, whilst I don't go out on the town much these days, I wouldn't be in the slightest bit surprised if the next time I order a cocktail in a trendy bar it was served up in a jam jar!
I think a lot of the appeal of jar food is its convenience. Many foods will keep for several days in a sturdy, well-sealed jar so, with just a little forward planning, you can prepare tasty meals ready to enjoy when you're pushed for time. The jar also offers a perfect way to transport food and negates the need for any crockery – just eat straight from the jar! Sure, it'll probably turn out to be a passing fad, but you can't deny that jar food is aesthetically pleasing, especially when it includes colourful fresh fruits and/or veggies arranged in pretty layers.
I think salads work particularly well as jar food because the jars can be packed in such a way as to keep delicate salad items separate from any heavier ingredients (that may crush them) and sauces or dressings (that could make them soggy). So whatever ingredients you're using, I'd highly recommend putting any sauces or dressings in the base of the jar along with any heavy ingredients (such as pasta or beans) and popping the salad leaves right at the top.
I freely admit that this salad isn't entirely my own invention – it is my version of a pre-packaged salad I used to buy from a high-street supermarket when I worked in town. I added the red pepper, mainly because I thought it'd look pretty, and swapped the shop-bought version's iceberg lettuce with spinach because I've read darker leaves offer more health benefits (plus spinach is the only salad leaf that has my eldest daughter's seal of approval!). I also lightened up the Marie Rose sauce by replacing some of the mayo with fat-free yogurt. This makes two rather generous portions.
Layered prawn pasta salad jarsServes 2
80g small pasta shapes (I used conchigliette)
200g cooked peeled prawns, defrosted if frozen
½ red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 carrot, grated
100g sweetcorn, defrosted if frozen
¼ cucumber, diced
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
Marie Rose sauce
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
2 tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tsp ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the pasta, bring back to the boil and cook for 6 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, rinse under cold running water and drain well.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix well. Add the prawns and stir to coat thoroughly in the sauce.
Divide the ingredients between two 950-ml jars, starting with the prawn mixture, then adding the pasta, red pepper, carrot, sweetcorn, cucumber and spinach (in that order) to create colourful layers in the jars.
Eat immediately or chill and eat within 48 hours. You can eat straight from the jar or tip the contents onto a plate before tucking in (the latter method is easier, unless you have a really long-handled fork!).