I know what you are thinking. Salad? My kid will never eat salad. Why set myself up for a fight? Dinnertime is stressful enough as it is! If I’m going to go down the road of forcing vegetables into my child, I can at least make them kid-friendly big hitters (I’m looking at you, carrots). No salad, no thank you.
Well, we at the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation are here to show you the light. Your kids (and you!) can (and will) learn to love salads! Give poor old carrots and peas a break, and mix it up. Our trick to getting kids to fall in love with leaves is jam jar dressings.
Making dressing in a jam jar is one of Jamie’s secret weapons. If you haven’t tried it before, there are many genius things about making your salad dressing in a jam jar:
- It’s super easy, therefore kid friendly.
- You get perfect consistency every time without bothering with a whisk.
- If you don’t use it all, all you need to do is pop the lid back on and put it in the fridge for another time.
Many people try to pass off limp lettuce and watery cucumbers shoved on the side of a plate as a salad. Don’t do that to your leaves, give them some love! Dress them, flavour them, make them exciting. Or even better, let your kids do it – it’s one less job for you.
At Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project schools, we make simple salads and jam jar dressings in our first cooking lesson. Children explore different flavours created by different dressings, and get totally enthralled with cooking by simply shaking their jars. One head teacher said that after their first lesson, he caught a year 6 child with her hand stuffed in a bag full of salad leaves, snacking on them like it was a bag of crisps. Busted!
The key to a good dressing is the ratio of acid to oil. Children are fascinated by this, exploring how the oil sinks and the acid rises to the top of the jar. Acid can be anything from balsamic to wine vinegar to cider vinegar or citrus, and there are all sorts of nut oils, plant oils and olive oils out there that make fantastic bases. The basic recipe is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, and as long as they children have got that down, they love to improvise.
Making salad dressing gives children some great skills: measuring, pouring and exploring seasoning. The only thing to watch out for here is to make sure that you secure the lid tightly before they begin shaking! We don’t want olive oil flying all over the kitchen!
We like to turn on some music and shake our jars high, and low. Dancing is highly encouraged. Have a bit of fun with it, and then unscrew the lid and let your children drizzle slowly over the salad. It’s important to remind children to go slow, because you can always add more dressing, but you can’t rescue a salad once it has drowned. Have children mix the salad through with nice clean hands— Jamie likes to show off his fairy fingers as he lightly tosses the leaves in with the dressing.
Sit down together and taste your lovely dressed salad. This time your children will feel invested in those leaves, and you will be in awe to find them finishing their plates!