3 Simple packed lunch ideas

Whether you’re filling a child’s lunch box, snatching a bite at your desk, or setting off into the outdoors, a well-planned lunch can become a personal treat. Here are great ideas for recipes that are portable and memorable.

The office lunch pack

office lunch

Salads are often favoured by office workers who don’t want to gain more calories than they can work off in the course of a day at the desk.

Green salads wilt if dressed too long in advance, but some salads actually improve in their dressing. Try grated carrots and sultanas, dressed in olive oil and orange juice and scattered with sesame seeds. Alternatively, potato salad with chopped onion and a little mayonnaise, eaten with some separately wrapped slices of salami or smoked fish. Or perhaps a pea salad, like the recipe below.

Pack cherry tomatoes and a ciabatta roll to eat with the salad. Add some Brie, sandwiched between crackers, and finish with fruit yoghurt.

 

Mangetout and bacon salad with hazelnuts

Mangetout salad
Image via Emma Inteman

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 rashers streaky bacon, cut into small strips
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 125g (4 ½ oz) mangetout, topped and tailed
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped hazelnuts

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon strips until the fat runs off and the bacon becomes crispy. Before the bacon is fully cooked, add the shallot and fry for two minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a small pan of salted water to the boil and cook the mangetout for about three minutes. Drain well and tip them into a bowl.
  3. When the bacon is cooked, remove the frying pan from the heat. Add the hazelnut oil and vinegar, stir to scrape off any sediment then pour the mixture over the mangetout.
  4. Season to taste, toss in the chopped hazelnuts and leave the salad to cool.
  5. When cold, transfer to a cold container.

 

A child’s lunch box

Child's lunch

Nourishing vegetable soup can be thickened with peanut butter, preferably crunchy for added texture. Make enough soup for two servings and freeze half for another day.

Pack a small, buttered granary roll with some peppery cress as a contrast to eat with it. Cut some crisp raw vegetables into little sticks and, for a dip, add a small plastic tub of mayonnaise, coloured rich pink with ketchup to make it more tempting.

Finish off the meal with a few chocolate digestive biscuits.

 

Peanut flask soup

Peanut soup  

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20-40 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, destrung and diced
  • 500ml (18fl oz) vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salted peanuts (not dry roasted), crushed

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook all the prepared vegetables over a low heat for seven to eight minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
  2. Add the stock to the pan and bring it to the boil, then partially cover the pan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables have become very soft.
  3. Leave the vegetables in the cooking stock and mash them thoroughly with a potato masher, or puree them in a food processor. Gently stir in the peanut butter until it is fully incorporated, then season to taste.
  4. Stir in the crushed peanuts and reheat the soup just to boiling point. Pour half into a flask and freeze the rest.

 

Backpacker’s picnic

picnic

Spending a day in the fresh air is a hungry business and, more than any other packed lunch, backpackers’ food should be satisfying, tasty and easy to eat in the hand.

For a hearty treat, cook and cool a couple of fat sausages, split them open and smear with mustard or chutney. Then cut the thick ends from four sticks of celery and sandwich each sausage between a pair for transit. Add a few spring onions, a beef tomato and a hard boiled egg.

To follow, pack a big square of fortifying sticky ginger cake (recipe below) wrapped in kitchen paper. Add a small jar of refreshing home made apple sauce, to spread over it before eating.

Remember to include trail munchies that will fit in the pocket for an accessible nibble. Make up small packets of nuts, dried fruit or a couple of sturdy biscuits. Don’t forget to pack plenty of liquid, as exercise is thirsty work.

 

Ginger cake

ginger cake

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients 

  • 175g (6oz) plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 200ml (7fl oz) milk
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) soft brown sugar
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) soft margarine
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 2 eggs, size 2 or 3

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Line an 18-20cm (9-8 in) square tin with baking paper, letting it stand 2.5cm (1 in) above the rim of the tin.
  2. Sift the flour, ginger and baking powder together.
  3. Put the milk into a pan, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda over it and swirl over a low heat until it dissolves and the milk is warm.
  4. In a bowl, beat together the sugar, margarine, treacle and syrup and keep beating until the mixture is much paler. Beat the eggs in one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the spiced flour mixture after each egg.
  5. Add the remaining flour mixture and the milk and beat briefly until smooth. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes or until springy in the middle.
  6. Gently turn the cake out onto a rack and leave it to cool in its wrapping.
  7. When the cake has cooled completely, peel off the paper wrapping. Cut into slices and wrap them individually.