Back in August (you remember it: the sun shone, the Olympics were on) I was bemoaning my lack of an interesting lunch. I had developed a form of culinary tunnel vision, unable to see past the cheese sandwich to other, more exciting lunch options.
But no more. I am happy to report that the last few months have been a period of lunchbox reinvention for me. I have found tasty alternatives to the sandwich, discovered new fillings and flavours, and found new uses for our leftovers.
The first big breakthrough came after watching an episode of The Hairy Dieters. As an alternative to bread they recommended using wraps and this seemed like a good way to break free from cheese sandwiches (it’s hard to stuff a wrap with slices of cheddar). The immediate problem of what to add in place of the cheese was easily solved when we cooked significantly more roasted veg than two people can be reasonably expected to eat in one evening. Combining the veg with couscous makes a delicious dinner and, with the addition of a little feta cheese and a leaf or two from a gem lettuce, it also makes a very tasty wrap filling.
If you’re short of gem lettuce then the addition of some rocket, or other leaves, adds a nice peppery bite to the slight sweetness of the roasted vegetables.
This tactic, of using up leftovers, turned into a more considered practice and we often prepared far more than we needed, just to have enough left to fill our lunchboxes for the next few days. A quinoa, lentil and feta salad was another memorable wrap filling for a successful leftover lunch. Mrs Running Buffet makes a particularly great chilli and this has also made its way into the next day’s wraps.
The other revelation from my lunchbox revolution is the humble spring onion. Do you have some lettuce? Perhaps some cold meat? Together they would make a pretty good filling. But add a little chopped spring onion and suddenly you have something much more exciting. The onion lifts the other flavours and provides interest; what my mum calls “a little pizzazz”.
My top tip, though, for anyone considering trying any of the wrap fillings we’ve enjoyed over the last few months is this: lay a couple of leaves of lettuce in a wrap, sprinkle over some spring onion and a bit of chopped veg (such as celery) to add texture, and finish it off by flaking some smoked mackerel on top. It tastes amazing.
And do you know what? Having spread my wings and embraced variety in my lunches, the other day I found that I really fancied a cheese sandwich for my lunch. I am very pleased to report that the cheese sandwich has been saved from daily drudgery and has returned to being something that I want to choose to eat.
What are your lunchtime favourites? I’m sure there are more great ideas out there waiting to be tried so please feel free to share your top tips.