In news that’s unlikely to shock anybody with a penchant for a Pret sandwich, we Brits spend a lot on lunch – around £1,840 per year, according to the latest estimates.
That’s the equivalent of an annual travel card in Zones 1 to 4 or, as food writer Becky Alexander points out, a very nice summer holiday. “You can pay £7 or £8 for a salmon salad that has cost under £2 to make – over a week it really adds up.”
Frustrated with what she calls “terrifying” mark-ups on grab-and-go food, Becky began taking her own lunches into work at publishing house Bloomsbury, which sowed the seeds for an idea to help others do the same.
Packed (£12.99, Nourish Books) is a recipe book of healthy, no-hassle packed lunches for adults. It features more than 80 recipes, complete with nutritional information from the book’s co-author, nutritional therapist Michelle Lake.
“Michelle has a wide range of clients including bankers, air stewards, teachers, students, athletes and actors, and she found that the one meal people struggle with is lunch,” Becky explains.
“People don’t eat enough of the right things (great quality protein, veggies) and get hungry later, which is when they reach for snacks.”
Aware that time is usually the biggest factor that leads to workers buying their lunches, Packed is also full of tips and tricks on how to shop and stay organised enough to actually make the recipes.
“There are lots of throw-together ideas that just rely on good shopping and take the same time to make as a good sandwich,” she says. “We also include ideas for making at the weekend so you can get organised and then just pull something out of the freezer. “It’s ideal for anyone trying to eat well, whether cost is a factor or not.”
Check out two delicious recipes from Packed (below).
SPEEDY BURRITO BOWL
Black rice makes a nutritious change from white rice. Perhaps surprisingly, black rice is an even richer source of anthocyanins than blackberries and blueberries, which are known as good sources. You can buy pouches of ready-cooked black rice to keep in the cupboard to pull together this quick Mexican-inspired lunch.
– 75g/2½oz/½ cup canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
– ½ spring onion/scallion, sliced
– ¼ red pepper/bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
– ½ avocado, flesh chopped
– 1 handful of cherry or baby plum tomatoes, cut into quarters
– ½ tsp mild chilli powder
– 1 tsp olive oil
– 1 handful of coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
– 75g/2½oz/scant ½ cup cooked black rice
– A squeeze of lime, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the kidney beans, spring onion/scallion, red pepper/bell pepper, avocado and tomatoes in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix together the chilli powder, olive oil and coriander/cilantro, if using, and stir. Pour into the kidney bean mixture and stir well. Add sea salt to taste.
Put the cooked rice at one end of a sealable container and season with salt and pepper. Put the kidney bean mixture alongside and squeeze over the lime.
Makes one lunch
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, CHICKPEA, FETA AND POMEGRANATE SALAD
Cauliflower and chickpeas taste amazing when roasted. Add generous handfuls of whatever leaves you have in the fridge – rocket/arugula and mint taste particularly good.
– 1 small cauliflower (about 325g/11½ oz), broken into bite-size florets
– ½ × 400g/14oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
– 2 tbsp rapeseed/canola oil
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– 1 handful of pomegranate seeds (see Tip)
– 1 handful of rocket/arugula leaves
– 1 handful of mint leaves
– 50g/1¾oz feta cheese, crumbled
– a squeeze of lime juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Put the cauliflower in a bowl and add the chickpeas.
In another bowl, mix together the oil and paprika. Spoon this over the cauliflower and chickpeas, and mix well until well coated.
Tip the mixture into a baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for five minutes.
Add the pomegranate seeds and rocket/arugula leaves. Tear the mint leaves over the top. Add the feta cheese and lime juice, and mix everything together gently. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes two lunches