Sunday, 29 July 2012

For the love of lunch!

I get so bored of the standard lunch fare.  It’s so easy to end up eating the same old thing, day in, day out.  Cheese sandwich. Tuna sandwich. Ham sandwich. Alright you can mix it up with a nice bit of chutney or coleslaw or something like that…but it’s essentially a cheese sandwich. I need variety! Don’t get me wrong – sometimes a good sandwich is exactly what the doctor ordered. But sometimes I just need something different.

So I’ve been making a conscious effort to try and change this. Hunt out lunchtime options that don’t take long to make at home and don’t loads to make. So – here are three of my favourites…just for your tasting pleasure.

Cold sausage, potato and tomato box

This is something I found in the River Cottage ‘Everyday’ book. Really simple idea and I usually end up making it if I have sausages the night before. All you need to serve one person is; 3 good quality sausages; handful new potatoes; 5 cherry tomatoes; Mustard dressing (ready-made or make your own). To make, cook everything up, slice the sausages and potatoes into small chunks and slice the cherry tomatoes in in half. If you have some fresh basil in the garden or in the fridge – throw that in as well. With the dressing, you can either mix in with the rest of the ingredients, or take to work in a small pot and mix when you get there. My preference is the latter. You can also make a really nice version of this using a bit of smoked mackerel or haddock…this with this one you might not be too popular!

Crunchy/crispy noodle salad

Perfect summer lunch. Cook a nest of egg noodles per person according to the packet instructions. When just cooked, drain, place in a bowl and drizzle with an oil to stop the noodles from sticking. My favourite is sesame oil, or you could use garlic oil or chilli oil. Recently I made it with a good quality local rape seed oil and that was equally as good.

Add to this two or three of the following vegetables; beansprouts, mange tout, finely sliced green beans, finely sliced spring onion, finely sliced red onion, crispy lettuce, grated carrot, finely sliced green or red peppers, raw sliced mushrooms or baby sweetcorn. With the dressing below, this is really nice on its own. But you could also add some shredded cooked chicken, cooked prawns, smoked tofu or really anything else you fancy.  Even a tin of tuna works well with this! It’s important though that whatever you choose is quite finely sliced – that was it compliments all of the vegetables and noodles and gets a good costing with that lovely dressing.

And on to the dressing. There is nothing wrong with buying a good quality oriental style dressing and using that here. It works perfectly well – especially during the middle of the week when there are so many other things going on. To liven it up – add some fresh herbs – perhaps some chopped coriander, mint or chives – or a mixture of two or more.

If you fancy making your dressing – this is a really good one. Whisk the following ingredients together; 2 tbsp sesame oil; 4 tbsp mirin; 2 tbsp lemongrass; 2 tbsp fish sauce; 3cm piece ginger finely chopped; 2 cloves garlic finely chopped; 1 red onion finely sliced; 4 tbsp fresh lime juice; 2 small red chillis, seeds removed and finely chopped; and a handful of fresh mint leaves. It might sound like a lot of ingredients but the good news is that the oil and acids help preserve the dressing and it will last for a week or more in a sealed jar in the fridge. In fact – I’d suggest it gets better if left for a day or two to blend and get extra lovely.

As with the recipe above, I prefer taking the dressing in a separate jar and maxing together in the office.

Pasta, pesto, feta

So can anyone guess what this recipe involves? It’s REALLY simply but tastes great. You need two large handfuls of pasta per person. It doesn’t really matter what kind of pasta you use but I used penne. Cook according to the packet instructions. Drain the water and immediately add a heaped table spoon of red pesto per person. Then crumble in some feta cheese and mix – about a third of a standard bar per person should do it. When cool, stir in some shredded basil leaves.

As additional extras, I also like to add a good glug of chilli oil and/or a large handful of fresh spinach leaves stirred into the hot pasta until they wilt.

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