Rainbow plate: recipes bursting with colour

There’s science behind every colourful bite

The culinary experience is a sensory one. An Insta-scroll reveals a world of food fanatics obsessed with presenting ingredients in an aesthetically pleasing way. We’ve all fallen head over plate for food’s technicolour charms and it looks like there’s no sign of stopping.

One reason for this is because colour proves vital in our ability to taste. In a 2013 study, students were offered three lemon-lime drinks, each coloured differently (pink, brown and clear). Despite having the same flavour, the clear version was the only one participants were able to identify as lemon and lime – taste is intrinsically linked to colour and how we determine whether food and drink looks ‘normal’. If milk were blue or bread were red, would you think it was fit for consumption? Definitely not (right?).

But taste isn’t the only thing affected by what we see. The amount we eat is, too. Studies have found that we consume more food when its colour matches the vessel it’s served on. Rice in a white ceramic bowl? We might never put the fork down. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by confectionery behemoths: according to science, when sweets are the same colour – think Minstrels, Maltesers – we believe the volume of food to be higher, meaning fewer are consumed; multicoloured treats (M&M’s, Smarties) have the reverse effect.

So, colour matters... and not just because it affects how we taste and how much we eat. And what do the dieticians say? Well, they recommend opting for a myriad of colours to maximise our intake of nutrients; think yellows and oranges for beta-carotene (vitamin A), greens for chlorophyll and purple for nitrates (a handy chemical that has been linked to reducing blood pressure). Time to taste the rainbow…

Best of British summer salad

Beetroot hummus

Roasted vegetable couscous salad with coriander yogurt

Cajun prawns with green quinoa and charred pineapple

Wild rainbow rice with pomegranate vinaigrette

Rustic ratatouille

Whole roast sea bream with horseradish panzanella