| by Drew Middleton
Laoise Casey has four little words dear to her heart: Let’s talk about lunch.
Hi everyone, my name is Laoise (pronounced Lee-sha). I work as a chef at Paradise Garage, Bethnal Green in London.
In my former life I used to work as a Human Resources Manager in Ireland. Then four years ago I moved to London to follow my passion to become a chef and writer (that's the short version). I've been lucky enough to work at some great restaurants in London including The Dairy in Clapham and now spend my days cooking and writing.
If you’d like to read more about how I changed careers you can read my interview with Box Appetit here. I'm delighted to be working with Box Appetit sharing my joy for homemade lunches.
When I worked in an office I used to take my lunch in with me most days: I worked in an industrial estate where the only option was a small shop serving fried turkey rolls. There’s only so much fried turkey a woman can eat. Believe me, I tried. So I started experimenting with different lunch recipes.
A few years later I turned this simple joy of lunch into a weekly column with the Evening Standard – The London Lunch Box.
I believe that lunch should be celebrated, even if it is only eaten quickly at your desk. So, please, put down that soggy flimsily wrapped sandwich and let’s talk about lunch. Here’s what someone far wiser than me has to say on the subject:
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long difficult words but rather short easy words like ‘what about lunch?’” Winnie The Pooh.
Agreed. Now I’m not talking about spending lots of time in the kitchen. Who has time for that?
There are far more important things to be doing; like eating cake, scrolling endlessly through Twitter, watching your nails/paint dry, eyeballing your friends on Facebook having the time of their lives (ANOTHER baby/marriage/dog-birthday/some-type-of-happy-event) while you slowly wilt away on the sofa watching Game of Thrones. What else would you be doing of a Sunday?
Let’s get the practicalities out of the way first. Invest in a proper lunch box. I know I know, there are much more important things in life to spend money on, like a subscription to a DIY magazine on how to upcycle your bird house (duck egg paint wash, matchstick wardrobes. Tried it, London pigeons did not appreciate it).
A lunch box that has a handy separate container for dressings to avoid the disappointing experience of a mushy salad is always useful. This way you add the dressing last minute and feel delighted with yourself.
Also. Here’s the thing that I like the most: When you make your own lunch you know exactly what you’re putting into it. And, it is cheaper. Leaving you free to spend the extra pennies on a triple mocha frapachinalatte expialidocious iced coffee. Or whatever takes your fancy.
Other stuff: garnishes. These are the things that make your lunch box something to be enjoyed: So whether it’s toasted nuts (almonds, macadamia, pine nuts) or seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) with a salad.
A simple garnish makes the difference between lunch and Lunch-that-you-want-to-eat-while-avoiding-emails. The difference is slight but oh so important.
Use up leftovers. Turn a Sunday roast chicken into a chicken wrap with feta, rocket and avocado (please don’t make a rose out of it or we might have to have words).
Or what about making a big batch of soup on a Monday night? Then you’re set for lunch the next day. Just add toast/pittas/bagels.
Or if all of that seems like too much work or preparation in advance, I’m sharing two of my favourite lunch box recipes. Quick. Simple. Tasty. These used to brighten up my day when I worked in an office. Perhaps don’t bring them to the water cooler. You won’t have any left. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Half a can of chickpeas
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp. Greek yogurt
Small handful mint leaves
2 pitta breads
Sea salt, cracked black pepper to season
Preheat oven to 200C. Drain the chickpeas, rinse and pat dry with kitchen paper. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven on a baking tray for 20 minutes until crispy. Add the cumin seeds during the last five minutes’ cooking time. Finely slice the mint and stir into the yoghurt with a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Fill the pitta breads with the yoghurt and top with the roasted chickpeas. You could either make double of the recipe to use up the whole can of chickpeas. Or use the other half to make hummus.
1 small pear (firm variety, e.g. Conference)
1 tbsp. almonds with skin on
40g goat’s cheese
1 tsp. honey
1 small sprig thyme
Sea salt, cracked black pepper to season
1 small pear (firm variety e.g. Conference)
Cut the radicchio lengthways into quarters. Heat a frying pan on a high heat. When nearly smoking hot place the radicchio cut side down into the pan. Cook until charred, turn over and repeat on the other cut side. Cut the pear into quarters, remove the core and thinly slice lengthways. Roughly chop the almonds. Finish with the goat’s cheese, a drizzle of honey and picked thyme. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.