Roz Crowley

Food, wine, travel, music

Dining deskside

Some ideas here from my Irish Examiner article on dining deskside. See http://www.irishexaminer.ie for complete article with pic.

 

In is the new out. Desks are the new dining stations. Under pressure and glad to be in a job, having lunch deskside is where it’s at. It’s efficient, but we need to make it a pleasure so we have something to look forward to when we take our eyes off our computers.

 

Or course dining deskside is less costly than dining out, but we have to make sure we eat well and not always depend on a sandwich. This is a perfect opportunity to avoid food waste and make a tasty meal of leftovers. If you usually don’t have leftovers, add a little more to the pot to save on fuel and time. Stews are great reheated and I have often liquidised a stew and used it as a sandwich filling, or added a can of beans or chickpeas to stretch it with a little stock for soup. Pep up the leftovers with some fresh herbs (simple parsley is excellent for iron intake) or some freshly grated cheese added in the morning. It’s all about thinking ahead and looking forward to the treasures of the lunchbox.

 

EQUIPMENT

It helps to have good containers with a good sealing mechanism. There are plenty in the shops these days for back to schoolers. For extra bits, keep yoghurt cartons for recycling and have clingfilm to hand. Plastic bags with zips are excellent and can fit into a hand or man-bag, but make sure you bring them home and reuse them. Turn them inside out to wash with a little soapy water, rinse and allow to drip dry on a cupboard handle.

Remember to bring a spoon or fork and invest in a nice, cotton napkin which will last for the week and can be used as a little tablecloth and to rub hands afterwards. Or bring a clean tea towel. Make lunch an elegant occasion. It doesn’t take any more time than scrunching up paper and using computer wipes.

 

Ideas

  1. Make the best of pasta. Catherine Fulvio has a lovely new book Eat Like an Italian – Recipes for the Good Life (Gill & McMillan €19.99 in hardback) with some delicious pasta dishes which are good for reheating or eating cold. When I told her about this feature she suggested trying her Spaghetti with Roast Tomato and Sage recipe with a sprinkling of goats cheese. For even quicker preparation her Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil needs a little cooked pasta with a hint of garlic and chilli cooked for just a minute in the pan and the cooked spaghetti added to the pan. Top with cheese.  The most important tip in cooking pasta is not to overcook it. It will not absorb the sauce if it becomes flabby and will be tasteless. Take it off the heat before it loses its bite and toss in its sauce or cool with water. My best tip to avoid sticking is to cook it in plenty of boiling water with salt. Catherine quotes her in law whose rule is: 2,4, 400 – 2 teaspoons of salt with 4 litres of boiling water and 400g of pasta. There is usually no need to add oil to the pan, though Catherine suggests that sometimes it’s necessary with egg pasta. Make sure the pasta is coated in olive oil or an oily sauce to keep it moist, ready for lunch next day.
  2. Celebrate soups. With autumn here and winter fast approaching we will need something warming, so try some pulses, which with their protein content will keep us warm for a few hours. My recipe below is easy and economical. Interchange any type of lentil with chickpeas and don’t be afraid to substitute them with a can of beans. They provide great substance and plenty of tomato flavour. Top any soup with toasted almonds, squares of toast, blobs of cream cheese.
  3.  Toast a sandwich. Always warming, most workplaces have a toaster to provide an easy treat. I invested a few euros in toasters bags about ten years ago and they are still going strong.  Get them from Lakeland or Amazon if not in the shops. You make up the sandwich, slip it into the bag and, complete with filling, put into the toaster. Better than using a grill, it will keep delicious moist fillings in place and keep the workplace tidy. While ham (ideally cut from a joint) with sliced fresh tomato and grated parmesan or Irish farmhouse cheese is a terrific combo, also good are roasted red pepper, goat cheese and pinenuts. Sardines mashed with fresh tomato and a good grinding of black pepper is delicious. Onions roasted and mashed with a little chilli is delicious too.
  4. Pop in a potato. Baked potatoes make a good base for topping at work. Using an oven to cook just potatoes is an extravagant use of fuel, so bake them when cooking something else, or use a microwave. The skins won’t crisp up, but the texture inside can be quite good. Make a topping of fresh vegetables stewed in tinned tomatoes. My favourite topping is smoked duck (www.ummera.com) with shredded lettuce on top.
  5. Noodles are handy for work. Put some stock in a flask and add the straight to wok noodles which will heat during the morning. Add chopped onion, grated carrot, celery, leftover bits of chicken or fish to add substance. Noodle salads can be interesting when you add chopped meat or cooked or fresh vegetables. They take just a few minutes to cook in the morning or evening and are delicious finished with a little sweet chilli sauce or soy sauce. I put the sauces on before leaving home so they permeate the noodles a bit. Top with chopped coriander or basil.
  6. Quinoa and couscous are nourishing. Quinoa has the most vitamin and protein content of the two, but both need a lot of flavours to make them palatable. Best of all is a big handful of fresh herbs. Fresh basil, parsley, oregano, mint all work well and are delicious with finely chopped onion, lemon juice and olive oil drizzled through. Chop in some fresh tomatoes while in season or add olives.  Without the tomatoes this will keep for a few days. In winter there will be delicious pomegranates which can be tapped and the seeds dropped into the salad for colour and crunch.
  7. Hummus is handy.  Substantial and satisfying, this mixture of chickpeas and sesame flavouring can be made at home for the best value. I have an easy recipe for this and another one made from peas on my blog.

 

 

Bacon and lentil soup

Don’t worry about not having all the vegetables listed below. For me essential are the bacon, onion and lentils. After that, use what is to hand.

2 streaky rashers, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stick celery, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

250g green lentils

handful herbs – thyme, parsley, rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp olive oil or butter

1 litre stock, ideally chicken from a carcass, but vegetable bouillon power is good

 

Start with the rashers cooking gently in the oil or butter to melt the fat which will flavour the soup. Give it 3 minutes, then add the onions for a minute before adding the remainder of the vegetables. Toss around to coat with the oil or butter and add the stock. Bring to the boil and cover with a lid. Cook until the lentils are soft – about 25 minutes. At this stage the mixture could be used as a base for a shepherd’s pie type of dish, topped with mashed potato or sweet potato. This is delicious re-heated in a microwave at work. Otherwise leave it as it is, and mash some of the lentils to thicken the mixture for soup. You can blend the lot for a smooth soup, but a combination of both smooth and some gritty lentils is good too. All this needs next day is to be heated or it can be put into a flask immediately. If you have leftovers of this, add a can of tomatoes to get another day out of it.

 

 

SPAGHETTI WITH ROAST TOMATOES AND SAGE

SER V ES 4

This is the simplest of recipes, so the quality of the ingredients is very important. It’s a recipe that

was made for me by Oretta Zanini De Vita, author of The Encyclopaedia of Pasta, in her home in Rome.

I really like the freshness of this dish and it’s delicious for lunch.

350g spaghetti

250g cherry tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, halved

3-4 large sage leaves or 6-8 small leaves, finely sliced, plus a few to garnish

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g goats cheese

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.

2 Place the cherry tomatoes, garlic and 3 or 4 sage leaves in a roasting pan and drizzle

with olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 10–12 minutes,

stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes are softened and lightly caramelised.

3 M eanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package.

4 Drain the pasta, then mix with the roast tomato sauce. Sprinkle over the goats cheese

and garnish with sage leaves.

Keeping it local: Sprinkle with a semi-soft Dunbarra cheese. The pepper one is superb with

the roasted tomatoes in this dish. You can also add roasted yellow peppers in the summer.

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on March 7, 2013 by in Food, Other, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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