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.

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.

Tomato, Chilli & Basil Linguine

Tomato, Chilli & Basil Linguine

Pasta, Vegan

Tomato, Basil & Chilli LinguineThe clouds have parted and the warm sun has finally shown its face for longer than a couple of consecutive hours this year. Spring has well and truly sprung and a promise of the long summer days to come has been lingering in the air. In typical fashion, as soon as the temperature rises to just 16⁰C, a good proportion of the public have stripped down to shorts. Well, we are British afterall.

The 4 day bank holiday weekend and the glorious weather have felt like a premature summer holiday, and now I’m yearning for some food to match.

Fresh and fragrant basil, chilli, garlic and tomato infused sauce slicked together with golden olive oil, melting over silky linguine definitely ticks the box. This is perfectly simple home cooking which just improves the longer it’s left to marinate in your lunchbox.  I’ll be eating it al desko this week while dreaming of my, preferably Italian, summer holiday.

A note on the pasta; I’d take linguine over spaghetti any day, its strands are just that little bit wider, providing better sauce-clinging scope, and it just feels more Italian.

Feel free to generously dust the pasta in parmesan, cheddar or whatever cheese you fancy (or even none at all). I’ve gone for some rustic crags of feta as I still have it lying around in the fridge from last week’s Guacamole, Sweetcorn & Feta Pockets.

Ingredients (makes 4 portions):

2 Cartons chopped tomatoes
2-3 fat cloves garlic
Handful of basil leaves
2-4 red chillis
1 small white onion
Linguine (enough for 4 portions)
Leftover red/white wine (optional)
Handful of rocket
Handful of spinach
Olive oil
Cheese of your choice (for sprinkling; optional)

What To Do:

1. Finely chop the onion, crush and chop the garlic cloves and de-seed and finely chop the chillis. Drizzle a little oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the above.

2. Lightly fry for a few minutes until the onion starts to turn translucent and the aromas of the garlic and chilli are released. At this point, add a little wine if using, and leave for a few minutes to cook off (reduce). Then add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and stir.

3. Leave over a medium-low heat to bubble away with the lid on for at least 20 minutes. You want the flavour of the tomatoes to develop and caramelise a little. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as you go.

4. As this is going on, put the linguine on to boil. When the sauce is almost ready, roughly chop the basil leaves and stir through. Take the pan off the heat and stir the spinach and rocket into the hot sauce, divide up with the linguine and sprinkle the cheese over. Drizzle some olive oil over the pasta too if you want.

Guacamole, Sweetcorn & Feta Pockets

Guacamole, Sweetcorn & Feta Pockets

Sandwiches

GuacamoleI have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like avocado, and thus guacamole. To me, it is heavenly and an absolute bonus that it’s full of vitamins E and C and mono-unsaturated fats (the good guys).

I was thinking about how I could incorporate guacamole into lunch, avoiding the rather tired tortilla chip accompaniment that we’re so used to seeing everywhere. To be fair, this isn’t exactly hard – as its presence makes most things better, but I had a look anyway and came across this: 21 Game-Changing Ways To Eat Guacamole which will certainly provide inspiration if you’ve ever had the same dilemma.

What I settled on is honestly delicious – I had to stop myself from tucking in there and then.  I filled a pitta with the lovely green stuff, some sweetcorn (because avocado and sweetcorn is a match made in food heaven!) and some feta cheese – the strong tangy flavour is a great contrast against the mellow, creamy avocado and sweetcorn (and a bit of salad for a nice crunch). Perfect.

Ingredients (makes 3 portions)

2 ripe avocados
Small bunch coriander
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 medium tomato/ whatever kind of tomato you have lying around
1 red chilli/or any kind of chilli, adjust amount according to the heat you want (optional)
Half a red onion
Feta cheese
Pitta breads
Can of sweetcorn
Salad

What To Do:

1. Cut each avocado in half and scoop out the flesh, discarding the stone. Everyone has their own way of doing this, but I like to run a knife between the skin and flesh around the outside and then slice and cube the inside, so it all falls out.

2. Chop up the red onion very finely, and the chilli and coriander. Pound the tomato in a large bowl.

3. Add the onion, chilli, coriander and avocado and squeeze over the lime juice. Start mixing with a fork or potato masher. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You don’t need to pound it completely to a paste, it’s quite nice when not fully mashed and left a little rustic.

4. Put the pitta in a toaster for a minute or two, and then run a knife along the top to open up the pocket. Layer the guac, crumbled feta, sweetcorn and salad in the pitta. Top with a final flourish of coriander leaves if feeling fancy, then package up for lunch the next day.

NOTE: To keep the guacamole fresh, place one of the avocado stones in the centre, cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge.

Tomato & Feta Giant Couscous Salad

Tomato & Feta Giant Couscous With Home-Made Pesto

Salad

Tomato & Feta Giant Couscous SaladDuring a marathon house hunting session at the weekend, I stopped in at Jamie’s Deli in Greenwich for a pick ‘n’ mix salad, to regain some much needed energy levels.

One of the salads in my selection was so yummy, including something with the same texture and appearance as giant couscous – a type of pearl pasta called Fregola – which is from Sicily.

That’s where the inspiration for this week’s recipe came from, although I later found out that there are only a limited number of places to buy Fregola from, mostly online, so I’ve used giant couscous here.

Tomato, basil and feta is a classic combo, so that’s what I’ve done.

You could be super lazy and just buy a jar of pesto, but it’s so easy (and quite fun in my opinion) to make your own.  All you need is a blender, or failing that – a pessle and mortar (which is what I’ve used) and you can just whizz this up while the pasta and beans are cooking. Minimum effort; lunch sorted for the week.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 portions)

About 200g giant couscous (or Fregola if you can find it!)
Small bag of cherry tomatos
Small bag of green beans, topped and tailed
Feta cheese

For the pesto:
1 small clove garlic
Large bunch of basil, just the leaves
handful of pine nuts
30g parmesan (optional)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

What To Do:

  • Thoroughly rinse the giant couscous and then add to a pan of boiling water. Simmer for 6-8 minutes until tender.
  • Whilst this is happening, chuck all the pesto ingredients into a blender and blitz to a coarse paste. If you don’t have a blender, crush the garlic, salt and pepper in a pestle and mortar, then add the chopped basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan and oil and pound. Make sure you taste it as you go.
  • Quarter the cherry tomatoes and blanch the beans for a few minutes.
  • Mix in the pesto, tomatoes, beans and crumble over the feta. Enjoy!
Smoked Mackerel Salad

Smoked Mackerel, Beetroot & Horseradish Salad

Salad

IMG_1045I went to the Hawksmoor in Covent Garden at the weekend for lunch. If you haven’t been yet, you seriously should (the lunch express menu is a cracker at £27 for 3 courses).

I ate a 200g fillet steak with beef dripping fries and a glass of Malbec to wash it all down. It was absolute heaven. After then scoffing the peanut shortbread and salted caramel ice cream for dessert (incredible, if you were wondering), I fell into a bit of a food coma and had to sleep off the rest of the afternoon… but it was totally worth it.

Anyway, I digress. The starter I had was a beetroot, horseradish cream and hazelnut crumb salad, which paired so beautifully that it got me thinking about that magical combination of beetroot and horseradish, and is the inspiration behind this weeks lunch recipe.

Everything in this salad works together- it may seem like a cardinal sin to put apple with fish (as the hosts of The Taste once said to an unlucky contestant) but it really works here combined with the earthy Puy lentils, creamy horseradish dressing, fresh spring onions and sweet beetroot.

You can make this vegetarian and remove the smoked mackerel, but to be honest it’s just not as good.

Ingredients (makes 4 portions):

Packet of 3 cooked beetroots (if you want to be fancy, you can roast fresh beetroots but you’ll need more)
Can of Puy Lentils
Small bunch spring onions
1 red, crisp apple (try Jazz)
Baby leaf watercress or spinach
1 pack of smoked mackerel
For The Dressing:
Zest and juice of a lemon/ few drops of bottled lemon juice will work fine Soured cream
Creamed horseradish

What To Do:

1. Cut up the beetroots into small chunks, finely chop the spring onions, roughly cut the mackerel into small pieces and finely slice the apple. Sprinkle some lemon juice over the apple to prevent it from going brown.

2. Add all of the above ingredients to a large mixing bowl with the puy lentils.

3. Mix up the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and then spoon into the mixing bowl to coat everything. I’d add a good dollop of sour cream and about a quarter the amount of horseradish cream. Make sure you taste it to check you’re happy with the flavour balance.

4. If you’re taking this in a box for lunch, put the spinach of lamb’s lettuce in first, and then spoon over the rest of the salad and keep in the fridge.

NOTE: It’s best to make up the salad fresh each night (or even morning) before you plan to eat it, rather than mixing up the whole batch and keeping in the fridge. Just evenly divide up the ingredients into 4 portions.