Food, wine, travel, music
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.
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.
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.
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.