Say goodbye to bought sandwiches and create a feast for your break while saving a small fortune in the process, advise authors of The Little Book of Lunch, Caroline Craig and Sophie Missing
LUNCH is often a chore: from dragging yourself away from your desk to the nearest sandwich chain, to forking out for something that, more often than not, you don’t particularly fancy.
And it all adds up – buying even the simplest lunch every day is expensive. But it needn’t be this way. We love making our own lunches: not only are they always more delicious than anything you can buy, but there’s something enormously comforting about unwrapping a little slice of home, at work. At a time where most people are feeling the post-Christmas pinch, making your lunch is radically cheaper than buying it. So what are our top lunch making tips?
1 Invest in three different sizes of Tupperware. A large one for things like lettuce leaves (which of course shouldn’t be dressed until you are about to eat), a medium-sized one for most lunches eg pasta salads and leftovers. And finally a miniature one for dressings, a squirt of mayonnaise, a sprinkling of nuts – any condiment or packed lunch addition – which can in turn, be nestled inside your bigger containers for double protection against spillages.
2 Keep a DIY seasoning kit of salt, pepper and chilli flakes ready at your desk.
3 Use a thin layer of butter as a sealant on your sandwiches and thoroughly blot and dry any salad to avoid the dreaded sandwich sog.
4 Start simple: you don’t need to get up at 5:30am to enjoy your homemade goods. Be clever and requisition leftovers or pack and bring in the raw ingredients to assemble something basic at work.
The Little Book of Lunch: Recipes and Ideas for the Office Packed Lunch is out now, £15, Square Peg.
Wonderfully aromatic and light, this is a soup to both soothe and lift the spirits with all the essential flavours of pho and not so much of the faffing around. If you are in the lucky position of having leftovers from a whole roast chicken then you could make your own stock for this, but shop-bought or a stock cube workes just fine. You’ll need to have a few utensils waiting for you at your desk: a clean pair of scissors, a bowl, chopsticks and a spoon.
Makes 1 serving
1 In the morning: Fill your kettle and put it on to boil (this way you can enjoy a cup of tea while making lunch). Add the chopped spring onions to a non-stick pan on a low heat, and cook until they start to colour. Put the stock in a pan on a medium heat, adding the fish sauce and the juice of a quarter of the lime. You want to heat it until just before it begins to boil so while it is heating prepare your herbs and place in a container.
2 Place the chicken in a separate container or wrap in a small piece of foil. Place the rice noodles in a large heatproof bowl, and pour over the boiling water from the kettle. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for three minutes. Remove the spring onions from the heat and wrap in a small piece of foil. The stock should now be simmering, so turn off the heat and empty into your thermos. Drain the noodles in a colander, shaking vigorously to get rid of any excess water and place in a Tupperware.
3 Come lunchtime: Find yourself a nice spot; this soup goes well with some quiet reflection. Carefully decant your hot stock into a bowl, then add the noodles, chicken and herbs. Lastly, using your scissors, snip the chilli into the bowl, and squeeze the remaining quarter of lime juice generously. A squirt of chilli sauce can be nice.
FALAFEL WITH YOGHURT, AUBERGINE AND RED CABBAGE SALAD
The best falafels we have tasted so far are from L’As du Fallafel on Rue des Rosiers in Paris. This recipe is an homage to them. This dish is all in the careful packing, and assembly at work. You can make everything the night before, but be sure to keep the dressing in the fridge.
Makes 1 generous serving
1 The night before: Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5. Chop your aubergine up into 3cm chunks and lay on a roasting tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and the salt and pepper and roast for 35 minutes or until golden and squishy. Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the falafels to the oven dish. When the time is up, leave to cool on the counter under some tin foil.
2 In the morning: Grate the cabbage into ribbons, the finer the better. Cut or grate the cucumber into small pieces. Finely chop the onion.
3 Add to your designated container along with the cherry tomatoes, cooled falafel and aubergines. To prepare the dressing, simply mix all of the ingredients together in a small jam jar or Tupperware. Lightly toast your pitta or flatbread and pack separately, in foil or a brown paper bag. Keeping this dish at room temperature for a few hours until lunchtime is fine.
4 Come lunchtime: Open the pitta, or lay out the flatbread. Give your ingredients a good stir before spooning over your pitta or flatbread. Drizzle over the yoghurt dressing along with some chilli sauce if you keep any at the office.
ROASTED RED PEPPERS WITH ANCHOVY AND TOMATO
This recipe is easy and requires very few ingredients. Delicious served with bread or couscous to soak up all the juices, it can be cooked either the night before or even in the morning as it requires little input on your part.
Makes 1 serving (for a hungry person), with leftovers
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Slice the peppers in half, down the middle of the stalk. You should be left with four perfect sides. Remove the seeds and white flesh.
2 Lay the peppers cup side up on a baking tray and stuff with the cherry tomatoes (four should fit perfectly in each pepper half), anchovies and sliced garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes. The peppers will fill with a delicious juice when cooking: take care not to let this escape when packing into your lunch receptacle.