I don’t think anyone is sad to see the back of grim office lunches al desko, Tupperware and communal microwaves.
Working from home and religiously enforcing a proper lunch hour allows me at least sixty minutes of pleasure to break up the working day, both taking time to prepare a delicious lunch and sitting down to enjoy the fruits of my labour without the unflattering glow of a laptop screen.
For weekends when you rise early enough to have breakfast and lunch and can plan your day around fitting in as much good food as possible, taking a little time to treat yourself with a luxurious lunch, off the clock, feels entirely necessary.
Is there anything more comforting than a roast chicken dinner? For minimum effort, you can enjoy the most delicious return. A Sunday spent enjoying this most simple of roasts surely brings a week of content.
This Hairy Biker’s recipe for classic Roast Chicken with Sage and Onion Stuffing is reliably foolproof, with the excellent tip of removing chicken from packing the day before, patting dry, salting and leaving overnight loosely covered in the fridge. Crispy skin here you come.
I along with some chopped fennel underneath, which will soak up all the flavour and soften nicely as it slowly roasts in chicken fat. Keep some of this for tomorrow, if you can.
Leftover roast chicken, fennel and orange salad is a Monday dream – light, refreshing and exactly what you need after approximately six roast potatoes and a trowel of stuffing on Sunday.
None too taxing on the brain to throw together, this salad is one of my all time favourites introduced to me many years back in one of Rachel Allen’s brilliant books. Shredded roast chicken (dark meat works perfectly) comes back to life with juicy orange segments and the freshness of raw fennel, tossed with baby leaves.
I change mine up slightly by quickly marinating some sliced red onions in the juice of half an orange, along with mandolined, wafer thin fennel. Even a few minutes will do the trick. Use this juice to whisk up an easy, sweet vinaigrette with some wholegrain mustard, salt and pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
Finally, for crunch, roast chickpeas tossed in garlic salt and oil for 15 minutes as a crouton with benefits. If there is leftover chicken skin, I’ll trim that of excess fat and roast along with the chickpeas and top the salad with these crispy shards of deliciousness, too.
More upsides to working from home: lunchtime salads are no longer wilted, dull and tired looking affairs and there is no chance of being irked by colleagues’ lack of microwave etiquette. No one will nuke chowder to create the effect of a smoked haddock scented candle in your home. Joyous.
Monday part 2 often requires brain food to carry us through, and herby hot smoked salmon and pomegranate chopped salad is an excellent option for a quick-ish, nutritious bowl of goodness. For an exotic-feeling salad, toss chopped cucumber, red onion, tomato and pomegranate seeds with lemon juice and plenty of chopped fresh mint, coriander and flat leaf parsley.
I often throw in toasted almonds for crunch, but pistachios are lovely in this too, and a crumbling of feta adds creaminess. Simply top this mix with flaked morsels of hot smoked salmon (I get a peppered version) and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and thick, sweet and sticky pomegranate molasses. Zingy, fresh and zero afternoon slump.
Half the week down and Wine Wednesday thoughts begin to creep in…indulge yourself a bit with some of the best bits of the cheese/charcuterie board you’d kill to be devouring with a nice glass of red.
The wrap folding hack made famous by TikTok will have your tastebuds doing an awkward dance in delight, when employed with brie, prosciutto, truffle honey and thinly sliced pear.
Simply cut halfway through your wrap, smear with truffle honey and add a filling to each quadrant – for a little pop of green I went with spinach for the final quarter. Heat in a pan or panini press (realistically, George Foreman grill) until golden brown to create a divine, melty handheld treat.
If you have some extra time, pancetta/streaky bacon also works very well here, and has the added bonus of residual bacon fat to cook your wrap in, either in the pan or by brushing it on each side before adding to the grill/press contraption.
By Thursday takeaway temptation starts to set in for me, so adding some of the flavours I crave like nutty satay works wonders to keep me off the delivery apps come lunchtime.
This light Courgette Rainbow Rolls Recipe with satay dip looks laborious, but a quick bit of chopping and rolling and you’ll have a gorgeous saintly lunch to enjoy.
The recipe calls for a vegetable sheet cutter (a fantastic gadget if you are looking for an excuse to expand your kitchenware collection) but when time is short I make little (usually wonky looking but tasty) rice paper rolls, quickly soaking the rice paper sheets and stuffing with the same fresh, crunchy fillings.
You can also change things up with prawns or whatever protein you have to hand instead of tofu, and add a little sweetness with mango or pineapple.
I eat my mushroom carnitas in one form or another for lunch at least once a week. I am a confirmed meat eater who is quite often convinced of oyster mushroom’s carnivore chameleon qualities and ain’t nobody got time for slow cooked pork shoulder come the end of the week. It’s Friday, we want something that says fiesta but fast. Resist the temptation to pour a marg, or don’t, I am certainly not in a position to judge.
Finely slice half a white onion and shred a pack of oyster mushrooms by hand (they are key to the meaty and pulled texture, but finely sliced shiitake or portabellos will still be delicious), pop into a frying pan for 5-7 minutes to get some colour going. Add chopped garlic, and scant 1/2 teaspoons of cumin, ground coriander and smoked paprika and fry for a further minute.
For the saucy bit, add some liquid smoke, Worcester sauce, a squeeze of smokey bbq sauce, passata and some fresh lime juice. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Serve up Buddha-bowl style with finely shredded red cabbage and roasted red peppers (both can happily come from jars for this), shredded lettuce, chopped avocado or guacamole, feta and maybe some tortilla chips or roasted sweet potato cubes to make it heartier and carry you through to 5pm.
My signature rare steak and blue cheese sandwich is the kind of luscious lunch you can look forward to all week long. Indulgent and bursting at the seams with flavour, I can’t resist this upgrade on the traditional steak sandwich.
This dish calls for two incarnations of onion – crispy fried strings and red onion and port chutney. If you have time, making both will reward you with leftovers so it is a fine way to spend a Saturday, but jarred red onion chutney/marmalade will work too.
For the chutney, thinly slice a red onion and cook over a medium high heat for 15 minutes or so with a bit of butter and oil to caramelise, stirring occasionally. Once browned, add in two teaspoons of brown sugar and a healthy glug of ruby port (I have also used red wine in this successfully, you may need a little more sugar), just enough to cover the onions, plus balsamic vinegar to taste. Allow to simmer and reduce for a further 20 minutes, season and allow to cool.
For the crispy strings, slice a white onion as thin as you can (I use a mandolin) and soak in buttermilk for at least 20 minutes. Drain and dip the strings into well seasoned plain flour, shake off any excess and fry up in a saucepan filled with vegetable oil heated to 180C, or by eye, hot enough to sizzle slightly when a string is added. Fry until golden and place on kitchen roll to drain excess oil.
For buttery medium rare steak (I use striploin with a nice layer of fat), heat a pan to a screaming high heat, go in with sea salt and cracked black pepper on each side and render the layer of fat for 30 seconds or so, pressing it to the pan with a tongs. Sear the steak for 2 minutes each side for a quivering medium rare result, adding a knob butter to baste with in the last minute.
As your steak rests (10 minutes is good), add some crusty loaf, sliced side down to the pan and cook for a minute to soak up the buttery, beefy fat. Take creamy, slightly sweet gorgonzola dolce cheese and whip with some cream cheese to make a light spread.
To assemble, slice your steak thinly, and spread your blue cheese mix on the bread. Top with sweet boozy red onion chutney, the sliced steak and crunchy fried onion strings. A token scattering of peppery rocket works here too.
Finally, devour, preferably with a glass of red, maybe even on a picnic.
NB: The elements of this sandwich tossed together with more rocket and balsamic vinegar also makes a damn fine, if not in any way light, salad, much like a tagliata’s sexier sister.
WRITTEN BY DARINA COFFEY