Our verdict: Packed and The Little Book of Lunch

Maureen: (chuckling) Let’s have some lunch! What did you think?

Kirstin: It completely changed the way I think about lunch at the office for the better.

Maureen: How?

Kirstin: I plan ahead. I always have chorizo in the refrigerator ready to go. I will make more than I need for dinner, knowing that I can use the leftovers.

Maureen: Like a roast chicken?

Kirstin: Exactly. I had a bird that was way too large the other day and Tom told me we’d never eat all of it. But I told him that I already had plans for the leftovers.

Maureen: There’s nothing better than using leftovers. It always makes me feel so virtuous.

Kirstin: This has been a revelation and I’ll never look at my lunch the same way again.

Maureen: I guess it’s different for me since I work from home and usually for lunch I’m just foraging through the refrigerator taking the best of the leftovers. But saying that, there were some really yummy recipes in there that I would make for myself. This would be especially good on the days when I feel chained to my laptop because of deadlines, so it would make me step away from the computer.

Kirstin: Lunch is now something I look forward to at the office, and that’s great.

Overall Grade (A- F):  B (Maureen)  B (Kirstin)
Best recipes:  Anything with chorizo (Kirstin)
Grade for Photography (A-F): A
Any disasters? Kirstin: No Maureen: The paella wasn’t a disaster, but I thought the suggestion that you make it before you leave for the office was comedy gold. Who would have time to do that?
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf. Maureen: Not sure.
Would you give this to a friend? Kirstin: Yes. Maureen: Yes, but only to friends who work in an office. I’m not sure it would apply to the mighty band of freelancers I know.

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Our verdict: Packed and The Little Book of Lunch

“Lemony Lamb koftas with mint and yogurt dip” from Packed

Kirstin: I am terrible. I hadn’t even finished making dinner on Sunday night and already I was thinking about Monday lunch. And koftas seemed like a good idea for lunch after my early morning swim in the local lido. So after dropping of M at school I headed off to the shops on my bike (part of the modern triathlon I think you’ll find!) and bought all the ingredients. But first. I have a couple of issues with this recipe. I’m pretty sure the onion should not be sliced, but should be chopped instead. Also the grilling time was considerably longer than was recommended in the book. Not long enough to make anyone late for work or anything, but not just 5 minutes. It’s also difficult to buy such a small quantity of minced lamb, so I made enough for 4 batches of this recipe which I’m curiously smug about. Finally, while these were cooking I looked up various kofta recipes to see the variety of spices that can be used in the lamb mix. So next time I make these I’m going to add a little chilli and possibly cumin and ground coriander. As it was, I added a little sriracha to spice things up a little. And I was thrilled to find some wonderful new flatbread in M and S which really made this particularly delicious.

“Lemony Lamb koftas with mint and yogurt dip” from Packed

“Poor Man’s Paella” from “The Little Book of Lunches”

I need to admit up front that I didn’t actually eat this for lunch. I made it for dinner. But I would be surprised if you could find anyone who would be willing to get up 35 minutes early before lunch so they could make this and take it with them. Not me, that’s for sure.

It was decidedly delicious. We all loved it and I definitely will be making it again for dinner, not least because it’s a one-pot dinner, which makes cleanup spectacularly easy.

The inspiration for the dish, as explained in the introduction, was Ottolenghi’s paella. If I had to guess, it probably was this one, as published in the Guardian and the original was made by Kirstin in this very blog seven years ago, which you can read here.

Caroline Craig and Sophie Missing wanted to make Ottolenghi’s paella, but realised they didn’t have many of the ingredients so they boiled it down to the essence of the dish. Or, as Nicholas rightly pointed out, “Spicy rice with tomatoes.”

I added all of the optional extras, which I’m sure made it far more interesting and tasty: chorizo, peppers, frozen peas and parsley. Tim suggested the next time I make it that I also throw in some prawns at the end, which is similar to what Jamie Oliver did in Save Jame! (technically, “Save with Jamie”), which Kirstin also tested out and loved, which you can read here.

Clearly, paella for dinner is a winner. But getting up early to make paella for lunch? Very ambitious and equally unlikely for most people.

“Poor Man’s Paella” from “The Little Book of Lunches”

“Bo Bun Salad” from “It’s All Easy”

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Tom: This is yum! This is like being at Slanted Door.

Kirstin: Ah. So we had Zuni and now Slanted Door.

Tom: All my favourite restaurants in San Francisco.

Kirstin: You know I’ve never been to Slanted Door, but you always tell me about it. One day!

Tom: Well I like going there on a Thursday lunch time and having a cheeky lunch.

Kirstin: But without me!

Tom: Well I wish you were there! And this is yum!

Kirstin: It has all the Vietnamese feels, doesn’t it?

Tom: It’s the fried shallots…

Kirstin: Yes, I’m going to smell of fried shallots all day now. Oooops. Also I couldn’t find palm sugar, sorry Gwyneth. And I still don’t have a spiralizer, so I bought the courgette ready spiralized. And the Armenian cucumber. I have no idea what that was all about. So a bit of a faff, but worth every second.

Tom: This is epic! My favourite lunch for a very long time.

Kirstin: I think we need to go to Vietnam some time. It’s so delicious! Right, let’s going back to listening to The Police.

“Bo Bun Salad” from “It’s All Easy”

“Papaya, Halloumi and Watercress Salad” from “The Art of Eating Well”

 

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Anna: This salad is amazing. I think it is my dream salad. I cannot recommend it enough. I mean, anything with halloumi (or feta, or any other salty cheese) gets my attention. And I have to admit that I scaled up the amount of halloumi just a little bit. But I had been for a run this morning…. Combining it with papaya though, that was a revelation. Sweet and salty. Peppery watercress. Red onions, pine nuts…. It was so simple and quick to make but tasted really indulgent and totally delicious. I’m having it for lunch again tomorrow. And I think maybe the next day too!

“Papaya, Halloumi and Watercress Salad” from “The Art of Eating Well”

“Griddled Squid, Herb Salad and Black Olive Dressing” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

Anna: This is really quite delicious! I have failed so spectacularly with squid recently but this is a big success in my book. Was it filling enough for you?

Peter: Yes it was. And the chilli was quite warm.

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Anna: It reminds me of the River Café griddled squid recipe I used to do in the last decade as a starter. You know, the one with rocket and the chilli dressing. But this is a slightly beefed up version, with the olives and herbs. I think it’s suggested as a starter here, but I added the rocket to make it more of a salad.

Peter: I would definitely have it again.

Anna: Oh good. So would I. Healthy, virtuous and punchy. Perfect.

“Griddled Squid, Herb Salad and Black Olive Dressing” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

“Asparagus and Poached Egg Salad” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

Anna: I feel very virtuous eating this.

Peter: It is very summery for sure.

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Anna: I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate the asparagus that’s in season right now. Louis helped me chose the asparagus at the greengrocer.

Peter: We can do the pee experiment in the morning….

Anna: Really I should have made this in Aldeburgh last week with all that amazing local asparagus kicking around but we weren’t so virtuous with our fish and chips. I made an extra poached egg each as I didn’t think it would be substantial enough for dinner otherwise. I think we should have asparagus like this every year!

“Asparagus and Poached Egg Salad” from “Bill’s Italian Food”