Emily gives a run down of 11 go-to lunches that work with her work-schedule and her family as well as her three favourite buy-in insta-favourites.
Having spent most of my life in hospitality working with some of the great creative culinary talents in this country I can safely say I am no chef! I was a relatively decent home cook – until children came along and reduced my skills to purees and cupcakes.
But the lockdown has meant endless catering for family and with no takeaways to even soften the blow. The upside of this is that I’m beginning to rediscover my repertoire.
Now I’m not talking gourmet or fine dining, just practical and easy to make – but just finding a bit more variety, so don’t get scared or intimidated.
Both my husband and I are working (and he really can’t cook but he does do my tax return, so it works for me!) so all meals need to be easy to prepare and fit in with my lunch break or similarly for dinner be able to be prepared by 6.30 before everyone falls apart in the witching hour.
I find it’s the ideas that elude me – I’ve certainly not got time to be searching through cookery books or endless mamma-blogs with ideas that are often way too labour and time intensive. These are my honest family go-tos and most of these super-quick lunch ideas don’t even need recipes – I hope they are useful and help!
- Easy Eggs – all a variation on a theme but the joy is that you can either make one big one for the whole family or create individual ones to cater for fussy-pant preferences.
- Scrambled eggs - with fresh chives on toast or add some smoked salmon/cherry tomatoes
- Omelette – add any bits you have in the fridge, ham, chicken, cheese, onion, mushroom
- Egg mayo on toast/sandwich.
- Cheesey Peas & Rice – I always cook too much rice for a dinner so I can use this for the next day’s lunch. Just add frozen peas and small chunks of cheese, then reheat and stir to create a cheat’s risotto!
- Vol au Vent – a 70s favourite that my children now also love. They cook from frozen and keep for a few days in a tin. You can add anything from left over stew to chicken/fish/ mushrooms in a white sauce and just reheat.
- Filled Yorkshire Puds – There’s a pre-mix as well as ready-made frozen options or making from fresh only takes minutes – Similar to vol-au-vent, add in any meat or vegetables and top with some gravy (I freeze left over gravy from roasts in small portion bags just for this).
- Easy Pea Soup – fry one chopped onion, add one small packet of peas and add a pint of stock (vegetable or chicken), then puree/blitz. Additional options include adding bacon bits, chorizo or some yoghurt/sour cream on top to swirl in.
- Guacamole & ‘Crisps’ – Smash your avocados with lemon, onion and a few chopped tomatoes, toast pitta bread and cut into ‘soldiers’ or ‘crisps’ and let them dip away in individual bowls. Add a poached egg on the side to really fill them up.
- Sweet Corn & Cheddar Scones – Add sweetcorn and grated cheddar to a normal scone recipe and cook. Eat sandwiched with ham or just buttered.
- Tuna Mayo ‘Boats’ – Make a standard tuna mayo mix and add in sweetcorn if you have it available. Depending on what your children eat, put the mix on a leaf of lettuce, celery stick or a halved mini-pepper.
- Bacon & Roasted Tomato Sandwich – when cooking the bacon, throw in a few halved tomatoes sprinkled with herbs and add to your sandwich to take it from café to gourmet.
- Cheesey Toasties (always a favourite in our house – my Breville is over a decade old and still going strong) – I use the ‘thins’ as they fit better in my machine, we add onion, mushrooms and ham but anything goes really. Just remember to butter the outside of the bread.
- Jacket or Sweet Potatoes – Just bung in the oven an hour (less for sweet potatoes) before you want to eat and then add cheese, egg mayo, tuna mayo, baked beans.
My Top 3 Buy-In Insta-Favourites
- Filled Tortellini or Gnocchi – ideal for those days when you just need to get lunch in mere seconds. Add butter, peas, passata & parmesan or if you have spinach and cherry tomatoes, wilt them in a frying pan for a few minutes and add to the pasta.
- Mini Fondue – Or ‘Dippy Camembert’ as we call it. Unwrap your camembert and place it back in the bottom of the box, cut and X in the middle and pop it in the oven for around 15 -20 minutes on a medium heat until you can see the cheese bubbling in the X. Serve with pitta, baguette, garlic bread or chopped veggie sticks.
- Gyoza – these have been a revelation for me as I don’t have a steamer but it turns out you don’t need one. Frozen packets take just a few minutes in a frying pan simmering in water.