Like many people I spent several years upon graduating in a variety of tedious jobs for various companies where I was frequently told that if I worked hard enough I could end up just like my horrifically stressed out bosses, and where in fact all I would ever really do was download recipes, make shopping lists and daydream about dinner.
It got ridiculous. I would find myself taking on jobs solely based on their proximity to good lunch options or the quality of the staff canteen (the best were at Google especially their San Francisco offices, C4 had one of the worst, although there was an excellent chippy nearby). I would feel a deep sense of pity when I’d see the unnecessarily wealthy CEOs I’d work for grabbing a cheapo sandwich in between board meetings. Meetings where they would scream and shout and bang their fists on the table before demanding that everyone with a mobile should throw it in the bin to ensure they were never deprived of any precious attention.
Funnily enough, I really didn’t aspire to be like any of them. Not even the so called creative types.It was all about lunchtime for me. I found eating well meant I was able to concentrate properly on downloading those recipes. Going to work for me was all about counting down the hours to lunch, and then counting down the hours to home time and dinner time.
I recently spent some time working in Flexioffices Shoreditch space, which is a terrific place to work and has some excellent lunch options nearby.
Flexioffices asked me to take the liveyourlunchbreak challenge and this is what I ate over the course of a week:
butternut squash dhal
A great one to make for dinner the night before and take in the leftovers the next day. Excellent reheated in the office microwave with a buttered roll.
1 butternut squash, chopped
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp. turmeric
2 cardamom pods
handful of curry leaves
1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp. cumin seeds
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. olive oil
3 x medium tomatoes, halved
1 onion, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
150g red lentils
tamarind pulp to taste
Place the butternut squash and tomato halves in a roasting tin and drizzle with some olive oil, curry powder and salt. Roast at 200C for 30 mins.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, toast the mustard seeds, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Add a splash of oil and when hot, add the curry leaves. Throw in the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Add the red lentils, stir everything well and scrape in the contents of the roasting tin. Add the stock and tamarind and simmer for about 30 minutes. Blitz until smooth.
harissa, olive & lemon cous cous with smoked sardines
put a tsp. each of harissa paste and vegetable bouillon in a bowl, pour over some cous cous and add enough boiling water to cover. Stir in finely chopped parsley, olives, preserved lemon, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and peppers. Eat with your favourite fancy tinned fish on the side and some hummous.
curried egg sandwich
Boil a couple of eggs, mash with a pinch of curry powder, parsley, mayonnaise, salt and a finely chopped green chilli and sandwich into wholemeal bread with lettuce.
farro pesto roast veg
Cook farro as directed on packet. Cut some tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, aubergines into chunks and toss in olive oil, crushed garlic and your favourite herbs. Roast for 30-40 mins at 180C and then cool. Gently mix the vegetables with the farro and stir in a couple of tbsp. of pesto.
chicken curry chapati wraps
This is one of my all time favourite mid week chicken recipes and any leftovers make a glorious lunch wrapped in a chapatti.
In a bowl mix 2 tbsp. tomato chutney, 1 tbsp. wholegrain mustard, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp.curry powder, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. chilli powder, 75 ml sour cream, 75 ml natural yoghurt and set aside. Fry a cinnamon stick, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. mustard seeds, 1 chopped onion, an inch of julienned ginger, 2 finely chopped green chillies and about 500g of chicken thighs cut into chunks over a medium heat until the chicken is nicely browned all over. Transfer this to an ovenproof dish, pour over the spiced yoghurt/sour cream mixture and bake for 30 minutes at 180C.
Enjoy with plenty of basmati rice and salad and then wrap any leftovers in chapattis with the remaining salad for lunch the next day.