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Archive for the ‘light lunches’ Category

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a savoury omelette for a leisurely brunch

OMELETTE with FETA, COURGETTES and BASIL

2 tbsp olive oil

2-3 smallish courgettes

1 small onion, thinly sliced

6 eggs

salt, pepper and fresh basil

125g feta cheese, cubed

Heat half the olive oil in a non-stick fryingpan and gently fry the thinly-sliced courgettes and onion for about 10 minutes, or until slightly coloured. Remove from the pan and leave to cool. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and season. Add the courgette, onions, cubed feta and a few torn basil leaves to the eggs. Wipe the pan clean and heat the rest of the oil. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, turn down the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes until almost set. Heat the grill and brown the top of the omelette under the grill. Test if the omelette is completely cooked by inserting a knife in the centre. Then turn out onto a large plate and allow to cool. Slice in wedges and serve.

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gooey camembert

A delicious fondue-like, gooey dip to be savoured with fresh, crusty bread…

I’ve used fresh thyme and fragrant pink peppercorns, but you can use your imagination and add whatever you have in the house – rosemary or oregano instead of thyme, some finely chopped chilli (or chilli flakes)… You can drizzle with olive oil or better still a little sweet alcohol – Kirsch is delicious (or another eau-de-vie) or if you have some leftover sweet dessert wine, but you can also use a little sherry.

  • 1  camembert in a wooden box (Rustique is the best!)
  • fresh thyme
  • salt crystals and freshly ground pepper
  • pink peppercorns
  • a little sweet Muscat wine, sherry or kirsch

Preheat the oven to 210’C. Remove the paper from the cheese, thinly slice off some of the top rind and put the cheese (rind down) back into its little wooden box. Sprinkle with a touch of fresh thyme, salt crystals and a grind of black pepper. Drizzle with a little alcohol (or olive oil) and bake for about 10 minutes in a very hot oven.  Serve immediately with plenty of crusty French bread!

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office lunch

Ever reflected on how much you spend on lunch every day? Even the dullest sandwich, softdrink and takeaway cappuccino will set you back €10 a day – which works out at a massive €2350 per year!

Taking a pre-packed lunch to work admittedly takes a little time and forward planning but can save a packet of money.  Don’t worry – you’ll soon get the hang of it. And with the tips below, you might even get to enjoy it!

  • Most of us lack time (and energy) in the morning, so my first tip is to prepare your lunch the night before. Easiest is to do it straight after dinner, especially if there are leftovers that can be used. Surplus meat or chicken (you can even make a little extra for that purpose) can be made into fabulous sandwiches with a lick of garlic mayonnaise or chutney and a few green leaves or a slice of tomato. Leftover vegetables and pastas can be turned into salads or, with the help of a beaten egg, into a filling frittata omelette.
  • Buy a few little Tupperware containers of different sizes to take your lunch to the office.  It saves buying foil and plastic bags.
  • Always include some protein in your lunch – it stops hunger pangs later on and therefore saves money spent on nibbles.
  • Buy your drinks in large bottles, then pour into a smaller bottle to bring to work – much cheaper than buying from the office vending machine or nearby shop.

    lunch boxes

  • Soups warm and re-energize in colder weather – bring in a thermos flask if your office doesn’t have a microwave.
  • If you bring salads with leaves (lettuce, rocket etc) take the dressing in a separate container. If dressed too early, leaves get soggy. Potatoes, chickpea and bean salads should be dressed beforehand so they soak up the flavours.
  • Just before closing time, supermarkets may sell a ready-roast chicken for as little as half price. Eat for dinner then use leftovers to make the chicken salad or wrap below.
  • Keep a few rolls, bagels and small baguettes in the freezer. Crisp them up in a toaster or hot oven for a few minutes before using.
  • Keep a jar of garlic mayonnaise or chutney in the fridge – they make any basic sandwich into a treat. To make your own delicious garlic mayo, stir freshly crushed garlic into a jar of your favourite mayonnaise – it keeps for ages. For a lighter spread (but one that doesn’t keep) mix a handful of freshly chopped herbs into a tablespoon of fromage frais.
  • Grow herbs like parsley, chives, tarragon, thyme and rosemary in a pot or window box. It saves a fortune and you’ll always have fresh herbs at hand.

To put the creative thinking process in motion, I give 4 examples of different categories of lunches to bring to work – a sandwich, a salad, a thick omelette and a spread of something that can be eaten with any type of bread or wrapped in a tortilla.  Each one can be adapted a thousand times with different ingredients.

Pick one, then use your imagination and whatever is leftover from dinner or happens to be in the fridge, and make up one.

frittata

FRITTATA of PASTA

Frittatas are thick omelettes, sort-of quiches without pastry, ideal for using up leftover pasta. Try adding a handful of leftover vegetables, frozen peas, cherry tomatoes, a sliced pepper or a handful of spinach. Other good combinations are (cooked) courgettes with feta and basil, or cooked potatoes, onions and rashers. You’ll need a 20cm diameter deep-ish frying pan.   For 2 servings you need:

3 large eggs

black pepper

a bowl of leftover pasta (with or without sauce)

4 spring onions, chopped

2 handfuls of cooked leftover vegetables (peppers, peas, French beans…)

handful of freshly chopped herbs

small piece of feta cheese, cubed

olive oil

In a bowl beat the eggs with the pepper, stir in the cooked pasta, onions, vegetables, herbs and feta. Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick frying pan until hot and pour in the egg mixture. Turn down the heat and cook for about 8 minutes until firm underneath. Turn over to cook through or heat the grill and finish cooking the omelette on top.

Chicken, tarragon and grapes...

SALAD of CHICKEN, GRAPES and TARRAGON – Enough for one.

large handful of leftover cooked chicken

large handful of green grapes

large sprig of fresh tarragon

2-3 tbsp of mayonnaise or half mayo half yoghurt

Tear the cooked chicken in bite-size pieces, halve the grapes, remove the pips and chop the tarragon. Put everything in a bowl and mix in the mayo. Spread on a baguette or roll or bring along in a Tupperware and eat with rice crackers.

smoked salmon on brown bread

SMOKED MACKEREL or TROUT in FROMAGE FRAIS on BROWN BREAD

Simple, delicious and very quick. Enough for one.

1 fillet of smoked trout or smoked mackerel

2-3 tbsp fromage frais or greek yoghurt

1 tbsp creamed horseradish

freshly milled pepper

chopped dill (or parsley or tarragon)

Flake the fish and mix with the cream, horseradish and herbs. Season with pepper. Eat piled on brown bread.

tortilla

TORTILLA with LEFTOVER CHICKEN and ROASTED PEPPERS

You can also stuff pitta breads with this kind of mixture. Or try other combinations like a Greek salad with feta, tomato, cucumber and black olives. Or lamb with vegetables and some yoghurt.

Makes 2 wraps:

2 soft flour tortillas

cos lettuce

handful of leftover roast chicken (or a small cooked chicken breast)

handful of strips of roasted peppers (see below)

tbsp soured cream (or low-fat fromage frais)

Put a tortilla flat on a board. Place on top 3-4 salad leaves, bits of cooked chicken and peppers and top with soured cream or tomato salsa. Roll up and wrap.

ROASTED PEPPERS

Strips of roast peppers, covered with a little olive oil, keep well in the fridge and they’re handy to have as they give flavour to all manner of different dishes.

Simply quarter the peppers, remove seeds and membranes, then put skin-side up under the grill.  Grill until blackened all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Then peel off the black skin and cut into strips.

ADDITIONAL TIPS AND IDEAS

Mix different flavours and textures. Great combinations are:

  • leftover roast beef, a handful of rocket and a tablespoon of pesto on a bagel (see photo)
  • goatscheese with some chilli or cranberry jam and lettuce on a baguette
  • smoked trout or mackerel with fromage frais and horseradish on brown bread
  • blue cheese with sliced pears and cranberry sauce on walnut bread
  • pieces of chicken with grapes in a garlic or herb mayonnaise with french bread or rice crackers (see photo)
  • brie with onion jam and lettuce wrapped in a tortilla
  • hummus with crunchy bread and crispy vegetables (you can also make a kind of hummus with crushed white beans from a tin)
  • tinned chickpeas (or red kidneybeans) with tuna, cucumber and celery, dressed with vinaigrette – either as a salad or stuffed into a pitta

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So, for that risotto recipe….

mushroom risotto

I must admit to using a mixture of dried and fresh mushrooms for this photo and recipe coz I’ve been far too greedy with the wild ones when I had them…  A great standby recipe for an un-planned meal as all the ingredients can be kept in the cupboard and freezer.

RISOTTO OF DRIED and FRESH MUSHROOMS with THYME and ROCKET

This has to be watched over but the good news is that all this stirring is very therapeutic! I’ve used rocket but baby spinach or other salad leaves will do. Serves 4.

large handful of dried mushrooms (or fresh if you have them)

hot water

1 litre chicken stock (made with a stockcube if you must)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

400g Arborio or risotto rice

1 glass of dry white Vermouth (or white wine)

handful of rocket

2 tbsp butter

Parmesan, shaved or grated

Put the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with hot water and set aside.  Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and keep hot.  In another saucepan, heat the olive oil and gently sweat the onion until soft (5 minutes on low heat). Add the rice and stir well to coat the grains with oil.

Pour in the wine or Vermouth and stir whilst it is being absorbed by the rice. Now add a ladle of hot stock, stirring all the time, until it too has evaporated. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock whilst stirring, each time waiting till the liquid has gone before adding another. Halfway through add the mushrooms and their liquid whilst continuing to stir the continue with the stock until the rice is cooked but still has some ‘bite’ (a total of 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and spinach (which will wilt immediately) and let it sit for 2 minutes. Serve with shaved or grated Parmesan.

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