I will never forget my first packed lunch. I was eight years old, and inside my turquoise Pocahontas lunchbox was a cling filmed ham sandwich, a Penguin chocolate bar and a rather battered apple – and I could not have been more excited. You see it had taken nearly three whole years for my mother to finally give in to my ‘incessant whinging’ and switch me from hot school dinners in the assembly hall with my sister, to cold packed lunches sat outside in the playground with my friends and their freezing bottoms sat on the tarmac.
What can I say, I was naïve. My steaming buttery (s)mash and juicy salty sausages became a limp and slightly moist sandwich with some pretty unappealing accompaniments. Looking back I can see now that I was a fool. I was weak, the bright lights of the playground and the promise of a foot on the social ladder was just too hard for this girl to resist.
And now, although I no longer sit on the floor to eat it – I still have my cold packed lunches and the novelty has most certainly worn off. At lunchtime, sixteen years later my ham sandwich and bruised apple just are not cutting it any more. I want something different, healthy and tasty – is that really too much to ask?
‘But we’re busy!’ I hear you cry. Understood. Having a hot meal, or even a meal that is not a sandwich at lunchtime just simply does not fit into the average persons schedule. Most of us will eat at our desks, and take about a tenth of our allotted time and it is all over before you can say ‘Ham or cheese today?’
In the evenings however it is a very different story. To have the same dish twice in a week for dinner is a veritable crime and yet to have the same lunch meal everyday is perfectly acceptable. So, I fed the last of my bread to the ducks and chucked the cheese out to the garden birds and started to cash in on the difference in rules; (and now do not get me wrong I am aware that this is not a new concept to a lot of people, but I have been really struck by the benefits) I have started doubling up my evening meal portion size so that I can use the leftovers for lunch tomorrow – and I am a real convert.
The list of benefits has made dinner-for-lunch a no-brainer, it is crazy how few us manage to actually make dinner-for-lunch meals. Firstly, it is a real time-saver; calculate how long it takes you to slice your bread and find the illusive end of the cling film compared with pouring a little extra pasta in the bowl or chopping an extra carrot… Secondly it is a money saver and considering the average London pre-packaged sandwich costs over £2.50, this is an irresistible perk.
Of course there are some meals that carry over to the next day better than others, and some food that should not be reheated. Rice for example, once cooked for the first time begins growing traces of bacteria which upon reheating, multiplies and could give you food poisoning. Pasta, and other starches are fine however – and if you are a little concerned, are more than suitable for eating cold. This week I am going to provide some basic recipes that I have found work perfectly as a Dinner-for-lunch meal so why not see how much time and money you can save whilst adding a little variety to your lunch time.
Dad’s Three Bean Pasta
A recipe from my very special Dad, who’s cooking was traditional, hearty and filling. I chose to add this recipe because it is tasty warm – but even tastier cold so perfect for your working lunch.
Ingredients Serves 4
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped.
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 carrot, chopped into small cubes
1 courgette copped into small cubes
1/3pint vegetable stock
1 tin chickpeas
1 tin mixed beans
1 tin kidney beans
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Handful of fresh basil.
Salt and pepper
- In a large saucepan heat your onions and garlic until the onions has softened.
- Pour in the tomatoes, carrot, courgette and stock. Sprinkle your oregano into the mix and leave to bubble for 10 mins.
- Drain your chickpeas, mixed beans, and kidney beans and add into the mix. Season with salt a pepper. Leave to simmer for 20mins, then put your pasta to boil.
- Once your pasta is cooked, and your sauce has reduced by 1/4, in a large bowl mix your pasta, fresh basil and sauce together. Eat immediately, or leave in the fridge to eat cold the next day.
Delia’s Watercress Soup
This is a family staple in the cooler autumn months. This is one of Delia Smith’s many culinary triumphs and it freezes amazingly well. So get your blender out and store up some of this delicious soup for any miserable lunch time.
Ingredients Serves 6
3 large bunches of watercress, stalks removed and chopped.
Knob of butter
2 leaks, chopped.
4 medium sized white potatoes, chopped.
3 pints vegetable stock
3 tbsp crème fraiche
Salt and pepper, warm crusty bread to serve.
- With the butter, in a large sauce pan put your watercress, leeks and potatoes. Season and leave to heat for about 20 minutes, making sure all of the potatoes are covered in butter. The watercress will shrink dramatically.
- Now add your vegetable stock – and leave, with a lid on to simmer for a further 15 minutes. By this point the vegetables and potatoes should be tender and soft.
- Put the mixture into a blender or food processor and liquidise. This may take a few rounds as this recipe produces a large amount of soup.
- Once fully blended, return to the pan and heat gently having added your crème fraiche to give the soup a creamy texture.
- Once warmed through, season if necessary and serve
So there we have it, a couple of very easy and scrumptious recipes to add a little variation to your lunchtime.
Feature Photo by Suat Eman