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.

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”

“Oeuf en Cocotte a l’Estragon” from “The Skinny French Kitchen”

I made this for my lunch today because I was pretty sure that if I served it up for dinner, there would be a minor revolt on my hands. Or, as a friend recently posted on Facebook with a picture of a big beautiful salad: “Better bring my wine to the table because I know everyone else will be whining too.”

This is essentially baked eggs with cream and tarragon and almonds scattered on top. Yum.

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The skinny tip is to use a smaller ramekin in which to cook the egg and the cream. I wasn’t sure, however, what qualified as “smaller”, so I used my usual ramekin. I didn’t think my small one would be able to hold the egg and the cream without it spilling over.

It was, in a word, divine. It couldn’t have been more simple: a medium-sized egg swimming in a small amount of chicken stock and cream with bits of tarragon thrown in for good measure.

Will I make it again? You bet. Would I make it for the family? Probably not. I don’t want to have to bring my wine to the table for the whining.

“Oeuf en Cocotte a l’Estragon” from “The Skinny French Kitchen”

“Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta Frittata” from “Fast, Fresh, Simple”

Sorry, I don’t have any dialogue for you today as I made this for my lunch and I tend to eat alone. Not for any Greta Garbo sort of way, but just because that’s where I found myself that day. In fact, she never said, “I want to be alone” and instead said, “I want to be left alone.” Garbo later said, “There is all the difference.” Indeed.

But I digress. I can tell you that I enjoyed this dish so much that I have now eaten it for lunch twice. It is a whole lot of good eating in one little skillet. For the record, I never added the sage leaves it called for– I had them, I just kept fogetting to add them– but I don’t think that oversight left the dish wanting. Also, I didn’t have any single cream to hand, so I used milk, which also worked. I imagine the cream would make it an even richer dish, but it seems pretty good as it is, so I don’t know if its use is entirely necessary.

I didn’t think it would work to cook the spinach with the chorizo, as I usually cook down spinach with water. It did work, though, and it worked a treat. I will remember this trick when I make other dishes with spinach in the future.

Again, because I was eating alone, I cut the quantities down to make it for one person. It could very easily be scaled up, in which case you’d need to share the whole skillet of goodness, which might be difficult for some people.

I would definitely make this again, especially for a weekend breakfast or brunch, though lunch on my own was equally nice. I’m pleased to say that all the timings worked for this recipe.

“Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta Frittata” from “Fast, Fresh, Simple”

“Apple & Watercress Salad” from “Jamie’s Great Britain”

In case you didn’t get the memo, Jamie Oliver’s next move will be world domination. He has a staff of 1,000. He makes millions every year. His “30-Minute Meals” was the fastest and best-selling non-fiction book of all time in the United Kingdom. The fact that the aforementioned book nearly killed us is neither here nor there. Jamie is an industry unto himself.

Just in time for the Christmas season is “Jamie’s Great Britain.” Bookmaker William Hill is offering 1:2 odds that this will be the best selling book this Christmas. Given how many Christmas trees had “30-Minute Meals” underneath them, I think that’s a pretty safe bet.

With the glorious Indian summer we’ve been having here in London, I thought the best way to kick things off would be with an Apple and Watercress Salad with blue cheese dressing and crushed walnuts. I’m sorry there’s no conversation for this one, but since I was eating alone, it would be a worrisome development for both the blog and myself if I did have dialogue to provide.

This was delicious and easy. The salad is basically apples, watercress, walnuts and blue cheese with a dressing of spring onion, yoghurt, cider vinegar, olive oil, seasonings and more blue cheese. I used my food processor to slice the apples thinly and quickly, and then used it again to whip up the dressing.

Continue reading ““Apple & Watercress Salad” from “Jamie’s Great Britain””

“Apple & Watercress Salad” from “Jamie’s Great Britain”