The classic smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel

food, Sandwiches

bagel1This is one of my all-time favourite lunches; I would go as far as saying it’s the king of sandwiches. Smoked salmon and cream cheese are a winning combo, especially when spread over a soft, sweet bagel with a twist of black pepper and zing of lemon juice.

Beigel Bake on Brick Lane does an awesome version, for the equally awesome price tag of just £1.60. It’s the best I’ve tried.

I won’t go into how to make this, as it’s pretty obvious stuff. I will recommend Lidl though for the bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Best price I found.

So, go forth and find a grassy tunnock to sit on and eat your bagel beneath the sun’s warm rays.

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Superskin Salad

Sweet potato, spinach, avocado & feta salad with a raspberry dressing (Superskin salad)

Salad, Vegetarian

Superskin SaladMy skin has been taking a turn for the worse for several years now (probably coinciding with the time I’ve lived in London!)

I’m convinced that my relentless diet of cakes, biscuits, chocolate and Cokes that’s my office culture is partly to blame. (That + stress + lack of sleep, hydration and exercise – which just often becomes the London way!).

After a little digging around I came across a list of foods that are good for your skin and I’ve basically just thrown them all together in this salad. The fortunate thing is though, they all complement each other really well. The best bit is the raspberry dressing which is just sharp and sweet enough to cut through the sweet potato and mildness of the avocado. Almonds add a welcome crunch and the feta injects some saltiness.

As for the skin, watch this space…

Ingredients (makes 4 portions):

2 large sweet potatoes
4 avocados
Feta cheese
Bag spinach
Whole almonds
Punnet raspberries
Splash red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Squeeze honey

What To Do:

1. Chop up the sweet potatoes into small equal sized chunks, spread out on a baking tray, sprinkle with some salt and oil and pop in a pre-heated oven for 30-45 minutes on 180C.

2. Meanwhile, make the raspberry dressing. I like to make up a portion of dressing each night before I want to take it in. Take about 5 raspberries and mash with a fork. Add a splash of the red wine vinegar (about 1 ½ tspns), a small squeeze of honey and a little olive oil. (the oil to vinegar ratio should be 3:1). Whisk together with a fork.

3. Assemble your lunchbox with the spinach, sweet potato chunks, almonds, feta and a separate compartment for the dressing. Cut the avocado into cubes when ready to serve.

Patatas Bravas from the Blue Bedroom

Patatas Bravas of the Blue Bedroom

Potato, Spanish

Patatas Bravas from the Blue BedroomI’ve just come back from Barcelona where we ate a lot of patatas bravas in various different guises – and all seriously good!

We discovered this medieval, atmospheric tapas bar in the heart of the old Jewish quarter, which deserves a special mention – La Alcoba Azul (the blue bedroom). They serve some amazing patatas bravas – although looking nothing like you might expect.

The potatoes were still whole, just finely sliced through almost to the bottom, so that you could cut them off in neat little slivers. One potato came covered in the bravas paprika – spiked sauce and the other in garlicky, creamy aioli.

So, with a hankering for patatas and a hit of paprika smacked bravas, I recreated these simple, travel friendly versions from La Alcoba Azul, which are perfect for lunch. They only need a green salad to accompany them; or some green beans – which do well in the microwave.

Patatas Bravas from the Blue BedroomIt needs to be mentioned that the sweet smoked paprika is the key ingredient in the bravas sauce – without it, you may as well not bother. Aioli is garlic mayonnaise, and if you don’t want the faff of making this from scratch, you can just combine greek yoghurt with some fresh garlic and olive oil to give the impression of aioli, but without the calories.

Ingredients (makes 3 portions):

6 waxy medium sized potatoes (I used Vivaldi)
Salt
Oil

For the bravas sauce:
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
Tomato passata
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp hot paprika or cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp flour
1 tsp vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)

For the aioli:
1 clove garlic
Greek yoghurt
Olive oil

What To Do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 210C. Place the potatoes on a wooden spoon to slice (this makes it easier and stops them rolling around). Make fine slices all along each potato almost to the bottom. Drizzle each with a little oil and sprinkle over some salt. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes on the top shelf, or until the skin is crisp and charred slightly.

2. Whilst they are cooking, make the bravas sauce: Chop the onion and garlic and sauté in oil for a few minutes. Add the sweet paprika, hot paprika and salt and stir. Then add the tomato passata, stir for another few minutes while on the heat.

3. Pour the sauce into a blender with the flour, vinegar and a little water to loosen it. Blitz until smooth. You may want to add more water – the consistency should be like ketchup.

4. Make the aioli: Crush a garlic clove and add it to the greek yoghurt and some olive oil. Mix well.

5. When the potatoes are done, spoon over the bravas sauce, followed by the aioli and enjoy. To take into work, keep the aioli in a separate pot, and add this after you’ve microwaved the potato with bravas sauce.

Veggie Cobb Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Veggie Cobb Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Salad

Veggie Cobb Salad with Blue Cheese DressingSo it’s about time that I acknowledged the mason jar/kilner jar salad phenomena that’s been captivating the health foodie blogosphere for quite some time now. It’s an ingenious idea (credit to whoever came up with this), allowing you to securely transport your lunch to work without the risk of it ending up a soggy mess come lunchtime. The secret is in the layering – more on that below.

Whilst there are plenty of beautiful, colourful creations clogging up my Instagram feed, they almost look too healthy and few look genuinely robust and substantial enough to carry you through the afternoon. I just don’t think they’d satisfy my cravings for something a bit more than just leaves (afterall, lunch is often the highlight of the working day – am I right?!). Enter this vegetarian take on a cobb salad with a “naughty” creamy dressing.

Still healthy and low cost, but crucially having protein and fat to a) keep you full all afternoon and b) taste yum.  The ingredients list includes hard boiled eggs (which I’m really having a thing with at the moment, after years of finding them truly repellent), luscious avocado, juicy sunblush tomatoes, sweetcorn, cucumber, lettuce and my favourite part – the creamy blue cheese dressing *swoon*.

So, armed with my new kilner jar – I filled it to the brim and got ready to chow down for lunch. See what you think.

Ingredients (makes 4 portions):

2 ripe avocados
4 eggs
Iceberg/romaine lettuce
Small can sweetcorn
Cucumber
Small bag of cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:
0% fat greek yoghurt
Blue cheese
Lemon juice
Garlic/regular mayonnaise
Chopped handful of chives

What To Do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Half the cherry tomatoes, place on a baking tray cut side up, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in the oven. Immediately turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes there for a good few hours.

    2. Put the eggs in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and cool with cold water, peel off the shells and slice.
    3. Make the dressing: Use a ratio of 2:1 greek yoghurt and blue cheese and smoosh together in a bowl with a good grind of black pepper, the chives, lemon juice and dollop of mayonnaise. Taste to ensure you’re happy with it.
    4. Chop up the avocados and cucumber into small cubes and finely chop the lettuce.
    5.Assemble the salad: Start with a thick layer of dressing in the bottom of the jar. Then add the cucumber, then sweetcorn, eggs, tomatoes, avocado and finally the lettuce at the top. Seal and leave in the fridge until needed.
    6.When ready to serve, simply empty the jar onto a plate and the dressing will slide down and cover the rest of the salad. Smart – no?
Swedish Salmon Salad on Rye

Swedish salmon salad on rye

Sandwiches

Swedish Salmon Salad on RyeEveryone seems to be going crazy for all things Swedish at the moment, and I’m jumping on the band wagon too. It was the Swedish Midsommar festival on Saturday 20th June, where groups of gorgeous, tanned, tall, aryan people with wild flower garlands in their hair gathered together for a picnic and a party. I have to admit, more than a little part of me wishes it was Swedish; what’s not to love about Ikea, Fika (coffee + cake + a chat) culture, that trademark androgynous design and of course the food.

At the Scandinavian Kitchen just off London’s Goodge street you can grab a filling lunch from a variety of small open sandwiches (Smörgåsbord) topped with crayfish, salmon, meatballs, egg or prawns, and all beautifully garnished. They are massively underrated in my opinion.

This one is an interpretation of something I picture Swedes eating in the summer, al fresco. The combination of smoked and cooked salmon is really good, adding an extra dimension to the flavour and the dill, spring onion, lemon, chives and capers set it alight. Rye bread can taste quite bitter, but it’s a perfect companion for rich salmon, which neutralises it enough. Just 2 or 3 small sandwiches are enough to fill you up at lunchtime.

As an open sandwich could potentially run into pitfalls mid-transit, I’d recommend putting a “lid” on top – aka another piece of bread, making it a conventional sandwich.

Ingredients (makes enough for 6 sandwiches):

1 big salmon fillet
Small packet smoked salmon
Handful of dill
Tspn capers
4 spring onions
lemon juice
Big dollop low fat mayonnaise
Black pepper
Handful chopped chives
Rye bread
Salad leaves
Cucumber

What To Do:

1. Preheat oven to 180 C, stick the salmon fillet on a baking tray and roast for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Cool thoroughly and flake.

2. Slice the smoked salmon into slivers, chop up the dill and spring onions finely, add to a bowl with the chives, capers, flaked salmon and mayonnaise.

3. Mix well, grind in some black pepper and some lemon juice. Spread the filling between 2 slices of rye bread and add the salad leaves and sliced cucumber. Wrap tightly and store in the fridge. The salmon filling will last for 3-4 days in the fridge.

Rosemary, Ricotta, Spinach & Sweet Onion Pizzas

Rosemary, Ricotta, Spinach & Sweet Onion Naan Pizzas

Pizza, Vegetarian

Rosemary, Ricotta, Spinach & Sweet Onion PizzasI have eaten so much of this pizza over the last week. Hands down, it’s one of my favourite lunches, and the beauty lies in the fact that it tastes better when left overnight and microwaved the next day at work. Believe me, I tested this extensively.

What I love about these is that they are SO simple – it’s really just an assembly job. No faffing around making dough and waiting hours for it to prove. There’s a time and a place for that of course, but I don’t feel that the start of a working week is it.

I don’t know about you, but I always prefer a soft crust on my pizza; and with naans, that’s just what you get – the whole pizza is gorgeously soft, gooey and incredibly moreish, plus they’re the perfect size for a personal pizza.

I took my cue from Nigella with these, but mixed up the toppings. You can top your pizza with whatever you like, but this combo is definitely a winner. Try it and I promise you, you’ll be hooked.

Ingredients (makes 4 pizzas):

4 plain naan breads
2 fat garlic cloves, sliced
Carton tomato passata
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (leaves only, chopped)
Mozzarella, grated
Ricotta
Small bag of baby spinach
Red onion chutney/marmalade (I used Tracklements onion marmalade – the best ;))

What To Do:

    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and start by making the tomato base. Put a small pan on a medium heat, add a little oil and the garlic and rosemary and fry for a few minutes until they smell delicious.

    2. Add the passata and stir. Keep the heat up fairly high – you want the passata to reduce down and thicken up. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When you’re happy with the consistency (will take around 10 minutes) remove from the heat.

    3. Meanwhile, put the spinach in a sieve and pour freshly boiled water from the kettle over to wilt. Empty the sieve onto a chopping board and chop finely.

    4. Get the naan breads onto a baking tray and cover evenly with the tomato sauce. Don’t be afraid to cover with a thick layer – the naan can take the sauce!

    5. Generously scatter over the mozzarella and chopped spinach and dot spoonfuls of the ricotta and red onion marmalade.

6. Pop in the oven for around 10 minutes, or until the mozzarella has melted and browned slightly around the edges.

Sweet Potato Mash With Canellini Beans, Chorizo & Spinach

Sweet Potato Mash With Smoky Chorizo, Cannellini Beans & Spinach

Meaty

Sweet Potato Mash With Canellini Beans, Chorizo & SpinachI cooked one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever made last weekend. Even my housemate was raving about it to anyone who would listen. The recipe is from Good Food and uses hake, but since I couldn’t get hold of any in my local supermarket, cod was a good substitute. I cannot stress how quick and easy this dish was to make, absolutely delicious and relatively healthy too, seeing as it’s carbless.

Sweet Potato Mash With Canellini Beans, Chorizo & SpinachI reheated left over beans the next day and they were still superb, so I decided to model my lunch recipe for the week on this. Seeing as fish really doesn’t do well in the microwave, I’ve replaced it here with a sweet potato mash. The saltiness of the chorizo and heat of the chilli make a really good match. And it microwaves well. The flavours seem to seep in and infuse the potato in the microwave.

I would have liked to make it completely veggie, being wary of the possible health impacts of processed meat, however chorizo adds that distinct balance of saltiness, smokiness and spice that is very difficult to replicate. Nevertheless you could remove the chorizo and replace with some paprika… I’d be interested to hear the verdict!

Ingredients (Makes 3 portions):

Tin of cannellini beans
1 birdseye chilli, de-seeded and chopped
1 white onion
Juice of half a lemon
75g diced chorizo
100g baby spinach
1 medium- large sweet potato

What To Do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Prick the sweet potato all over and pop in the oven. Leave it for 45 minutes – an hour.

2. Chop the onion finely and add to a frying pan with a little oil on a medium heat. After a few minutes, when the onion becomes translucent, add the chilli and chorizo. Stir for a few more minutes until the oil turns orange.

3. Put the spinach in a sieve or colander and pour boiling water from the kettle over to wilt. Add the spinach and drained cannellini beans to the pan and stir through.

4. Check whether the sweet potato is done by inserting a sharp knife. It will be done when the knife goes through easily. Peel off the skin of the hot potato and add the insides to a large bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the potato and season well.

5. Add a dollop of sweet potato to the bed of beans and spinach.

Spicy Bean Wrap With Sour Cream & Cheese

Spicy Bean Wrap With Sour Cream & Cheese

Wrap

Spicy Bean Wrap With Sour Cream & CheeseI’m always one for a bean, so I tried this bean salsa wrap from Boots as part of the meal deal at the weekend, and it was pretty good, as far as pre-packaged lunches go. I thought I’d have a go at recreating it this week – but with a healthier twist by reducing the excess salt, sugar and preservatives.

I like to take inspiration from what I’ve seen or tasted, either in the supermarket or restaurants and then make it my own. I challenge you to do the same: pick your favourite lunchtime treat and have a go at recreating it using fresh ingredients – you’ll be amazed at how good it is – better than the original, better for you, and cheaper.

Ingredients: (makes around 4 portions)

Box of chopped tomatoes
Can of kidney beans
Small bunch coriander, finely chopped
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 birdseye chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Tbspn smoked paprika
1 tbspn red wine vinegar
Cheddar cheese, grated
Sour cream
Tortilla wraps
Iceberg lettuce, finely chopped

What To Do:

1. Add a little oil to a saucepan along with the chilli and garlic and cook on a medium heat until the garlic has turned slightly golden.

2. Empty the chopped tomatoes and kidney beans into the pan and turn the heat down to low. Add salt and pepper to taste, the red wine vinegar, about ¾ of the coriander and the paprika. Keep simmering for around 30 minutes with the lid off until the sauce has thickened and reduced.

3. Assemble the wrap: Place tortilla on a sheet of foil. Spoon a line of the sauce down the centre of the tortilla, cover with the grated cheese, the strips of lettuce, a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle over the remaining coriander. Fold about 1cm of the top and bottom of the wrap over and then fold over the right side and roll over the rest of the wrap. Great tutorial here if you’re unsure.

Apple, Beetroot & Red CabbageSlaw With crispy Baked Chicken

Apple, Beetroot & Red Cabbage Slaw With Crispy Baked Chicken

Meaty, Salad

Apple, Beetroot & Red Cabbage Slaw With Crispy Baked ChickenDo you ever have one of those weeks where you know you’ve over eaten (and over spent on your over –eating)? Well, I have. I’ve had too much junk food, takeaway pizza, delicious but pretty unhealthy restaurant dishes… the list goes on… not to mention that last week I ate lunch out EVERY day, rebelling against my own mantra.

But I don’t completely regret it, because I discovered some of the best coleslaw I’ve ever tasted at Honest Burgers – fruity, creamy, crunchy, fresh and light – everything you could hope for and more in a slaw.

I’ve created my own interpretation – an homage to the king of slaws (If anyone does happen to have the Honest Burgers recipe, I would love to see it). By using zero fat yoghurt and low fat mayo, I think it can be classed as healthy. Plus the raw apple and cabbage are definitely not bad for you.

The best accompaniment for slaw in my mind is something smoky and barbecue-y. It has to be chicken with a crispy, charred skin. Thighs or drumsticks (with the skin on) are perfect for this. Make sure you get thighs with bones though, as it helps keep the meat tender. And please do try to buy free range chicken where possible – a little extra cost to you makes such a difference to the animal’s welfare.

I think this is one of my best yet. Sorry veggies.

Ingredients (makes 4 portions):

Packet of chicken thighs/ drumsticks (skin on, bones left in)

For the marinade:
Large handful of flat leaf parsley
1 ½ tbspns paprika
2 garlic cloves
2 tbspns oil
2 tbspns lemon juice
Large pinch salt
Pepper

For the slaw:
½ small red cabbage
1 granny smith apple
3 cooked beetroots
3 large tspns low fat mayonnaise
2 tbspns low fat natural yoghurt
2 large tspns wholegrain mustard
handful of flat leaf parsley

What To Do:

1. Start by making the marinade for the chicken. Either blend the ingredients together in a blender or mash together in a pestle and mortar (chop the parsley first and crush and chop the garlic).

2. Prick the chicken pieces all over with a sharp knife and cover each with the marinade. Leave in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 220⁰C.

3. Using a mandolin, finely slice the red cabbage, apple and beetroot into thin matchsticks. If you don’t have one, finely slice with a knife. Sprinkle some lemon juice over the apple to prevent it from going brown. Finely chop the parsley and add everything to a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the mayonnaise, yoghurt and mustard together, then add to the large bowl and mix thoroughly.

5. Put the chicken in the oven for about 25 minutes (do check through) until crispy and slightly charred. Leave to cool and then box up with the slaw.Keep the bowl of slaw in the fridge covered in clingfilm until you next need it.

Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes

Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes

Sweet


Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes
OK, so this isn’t strictly a lunch recipe, although I certainly could eat these pancakes for lunch, and they are still great heated up later in the microwave.

Very simple and quick, with only 6 ingredients – the majority of which you probably have lying around the cupboard already. Serve them hot with a good scoop of vanilla icecream and they are divine. I’ve just eaten 3 in a row.

Choose naturally tart eating apples to give a nice contrast with the sweetness of the icecream. The trick is to slice the apple thinly enough so that the slices cook a little, stay put when flipped and caramelise and char nicely.

Ingredients (makes 3):

150ml milk
50g flour
1 egg
Good dusting of cinnamon
Knob of butter/ sunflower oil
1 eating apple cut into thin slices
Vanilla icecream

What To Do:

  1. Add the flour, milk, egg and cinnamon to a large bowl and whisk vigorously until you have got rid of any flour lumps. This is probably not the “by the book” method, but I’m lazy and impatient and it works well enough for me. If you want the perfect method, I suggest this.
  2. Put a frying pan on a high heat and melt the butter. When it’s hot enough and sizzling, ladle some batter into the pan and tilt to ensure it runs all around the base in a thin layer. Immediately arrange the apple slices in a circle on the batter.

    3. Leave it for around 30 secs – 1 minute then check if the underside is golden brown. When it is, give the pan a rough shake to make sure it’s not stuck, grab your fish slice/spatula and flip it over.

4. Leave for another minute or so and then turn out onto a plate. Top with a scoop of icecream and tuck in!