With the season of shorter, darker and colder days having set up shop on our doorstep, I find myself digging deeper and deeper into my repertoire of bright and colorful lunchbox’able recipes and combinations to bring a bit of smiles’n’sunshine on Hubby’s and my desks during the day. This particular salad is something that makes an appearance on our table quite often, during the hottest as well as during the coldest and darkest times of the year, but of course it has the biggest “brighten up the day” effect on us during the November Nasties.
I’ve discovered that it’s one of those things that, like a good stew and very unlike a regular “salad”, is at its best when it had a night off to sit in the fridge, soaking up and developing all those delicious spices – which makes it a perfect candidate for a lunchbox~! Simply prep it on the sidelines of dinner the evening before the gig and you’re good to go the next morning, well rested thanks to a few more minutes in bed, and with a colorful, delicious and healthy lunch on hand to get you through the day. These amounts will net you 2 packed boxes or, with a couple of greens beneath, 2 healthy servings for lunch or dinner at home.
The Mango & Beetroot Salad
2 Ripe Mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
4 Pre-cooked Beetroots, diced into cubes the same size as your mangoes
100g Arugula Leaves, thoroughly cleaned and dried
Alt: Baby Spinach Leaves or Lamb’s Lettuce
2 Shallots, very finely chopped
2 heaped Tsp Five Spice Powder
½ Tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tbsp White Balsamic or Mango/Cider Vinegar – I usually go with my favorite Mango Balsamic Vinegar but a mild White Balsamic or High-Quality Cider Vinegar works deliciously well too
1 Generous Pinch of Hot Chilli Flakes
1 Lime, Juice and Zest
1 Tsp Grapeseed or Sunflower Oil
1 Tsp Soy Sauce
1 Tsp Oyster Sauce
1 Tsp Brown Sugar
½ Bunch of Coriander, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Just a word in advance – if the only mangoes you can get your hands on right now are frozen ones, I highly recommend saving this one for a later date. Frozen/thawed mangoes loose about 95% of whats left of their stability and substance after the whole freezing ordeal when coming into contact with vinegar, leaving you with … a somewhat chunky, orange’ish coat for your beets. If you need a few pointers on how to pick the right/ripe fresh mango for the gig, check out my little Mango 101 in my Creamy Mango Dessert recipe over here~
Once you have all your ingredients together, you can proceed in two different directions: the Lunchbox Version and the somewhat more refined-looking Dinner Version~ Both are basically the same, the only difference is that you will have to put a bit more effort into your knifework for the Dinner Version, slicing the fruit and beets into thin, carpaccio-style disks rather than into the chunky bits that will fit perfectly into a lunchbox.
1) After you’ve made your decision, put your knife to work and slice/dice your way through your mango and beets.
2) While you’re at it, try to catch up any excess mango juice in a small bowl and set it aside for a little fruity boost to your dressing.
3) If you’re going with the Dinner Version, arrange the disks in concentric circles on your plates as you go, alternating beet and mango slices – apart from a feathery pile of fresh arugula leaves on top you’re almost done with a pretty showpiece already!
4) For the Lunchbox Version, simply dice both the fruit and the beets into comfortably forkable bite-sized pieces and pop them into your lunchbox. Chop the arugula leaves into halves or thirds – again, bite-size is what you’re looking for – but keep them to the side for the time being. In case you really are prepping this the evening before, I recommend sealing the leafy things in a zip-lock baggie separate from the rest of the salad. If that may cause transport-related issues, pop the leaves on top of the salad after you’ve folded in the dressing.
5) Speaking of… grab the bowl you caught the mango juices in and add the shallots, spices, lime juice and zest, vinegar, oil, soy and oyster sauce Whisk the lot until everything is well combined, then let the dressing sit and develop for at least 15 mins. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary – keep the sweetness of the salad in mind when judging the heat of the dressing and don’t be too fast with adding brown sugar~!
6) For the finishing touches on your Dinner Version, place a delicious little pile of leaves in the center of your beet and mango carpaccio and drizzle everything with the dressing. A tiny sprinkling of Fleur de Sel flakes and freshly picked coriander leaves on top and you’re ready ro wow your crowd~
7) To finish the Lunchbox Version, drizzle the contents of your box with the dressing, close the lid and gently shake/flip/jiggle it until the contents are well blended and glossed over with the dressing. 8) Either pop the arugula and coriander leaves on top or keep them, as mentioned before, in a separate baggie next to your box in the fridge until the target Lunchtime calls for the components to be combined~!