Lunch boxes take me back to my school days and the AMAZING lunches my mum used to pack for us whenever we had after school activities, and couldn’t eat lunch at home. When I moved out, first to study, then to live and work abroad, I adopted the all too common approach of regularly skipping breakfasts, grabbing something quick and ready-made for lunch, and ending the day with a very late, and very large dinner. But the traditional saying “breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper” is proving rather accurate, as the mounting research† in favour of intermittent fasting shows.
Frontloading your calory intake to the first half of the day reduces risk factors for heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. People who don’t eat large meals in the latter half of the day also tend to sleep better, suffer less digestive issues and show less signs of ageing. This, and all the research I have been reading about children performing better at school, being better behaved and less prone to falling ill when they have a healthy breakfast and nutritious lunch, has convinced me to start making an effort to pack my family some decent lunches. Here are some ideas, which I put together for the team at Compass Fostering to help inspire parents to pack a punch on the lunch box front.
Lunch box 1
Fruit water (cucumber and mint)
Lightly salted popcorn
Ingredients for the rainbow wrap
wholemeal wrap or flatbread
1 – 2 tablespoons hummus or red pepper hummus
small handful baby leaf spinach
1 small carrot, coarsely grated
1/4 red pepper, cut into long strips (the long Romano variety works well here)
1. Spread the hummus evenly onto the wrap, leaving a border along the top end.
2. Place the spinach leaves down in a single layer, pile grated carrot into the centre and lay pepper sticks across.
3. Fold the bottom half over the fillings, ensuring you have a tight roll, then roll upward towards the top end. Cut in half or slice into thirds.
Fruit water (lemon and lime)
Pineapple wedges, raspberries
Wholemeal pesto pasta salad with salmon and peas
Natural Greek yoghurt with pumpkin seeds and raw honey
Ingredients for the pasta
medium bunch basil
small bunch dill, thickest part of stems discarded
medium bunch parsley, thickest part of stems discarded
1 small garlic clove, peeled
salt and pepper
about 80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
cooked salmon (left-overs work well here)
cooked wholemeal pasta (save some of the cooking liquid)
handful of frozen peas
- Put the herbs, garlic, pinch of salt and black pepper in a food processor and blitz until roughly chopped.
- With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until you reach your desired consistency (the green “pesto” sauce should be loose enough to fold into cooked pasta).
Combine the pesto with cooked pasta, cooked salmon or deboned trout, and defrosted frozen peas.
- Add a little more olive oil and pasta cooking liquid if it needs it.
Lunch box 3
Fruit water (raspberries and blueberries)
Cucumber and carrot sticks with guacamole
Trail mix (sunflower seeds, coconut chips, chopped dates)
Mini frittata with broccoli and feta
Ingredients for the frittata
1 tablespoon water
small pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
small knob of butter
handful of steamed broccoli florets (left-overs are great for this) 25g crumbled feta
- Whisk the eggs with the water, salt and pepper. Stir in the sliced spring onions.
- Heat the butter in a small ovenproof skillet or pan over a medium heat until sizzling, then pour the egg mix into the pan, and scatter over the broccoli and feta cheese.
- Cover the pan, turn the heat down and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the egg has just set.
- Pop the pan under a hot grill for half a minute if you’d like, to add some colour. Cool, turn out and slice to serve.
This post was written in collaboration with Compass Fostering. All opinions, words and images are my own.
This is the most perfect summer dessert when you have gorgeous, sweet strawberries that need eating and a few sticks of rhubarb searching for a purpose. The baked custard is only ever so slightly sweetened with maple syrup and a few drops of orange oil, so the flavours of the fruit really have the last word.
Slow-roasted strawberries & rhubarb with baked custard
For the roasted fruit
600g small, sweet strawberries, hulled
5 – 6 sticks of rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2 cm pieces
1 orange, zest and juice
45ml (3 tablespoons) honey or maple syrup (or more to taste – I like things super tart!)
For the baked custard
1 litre milk of your choice (the fattier the milk, the more delicious the custard)
pinch of salt
7 medium free-range eggs
30ml (2 tablespoons) honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon good quality orange oil, optional
- Gently toss all the ingredients for fruit in a medium, shallow ovenproof dish and roast at 140˚C for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender when tested with a small sharp knife. Try not to disturb the fruit too much once cooked, as it will be very soft. Set aside.
- While the fruit is roasting, prepare the custard. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it starts to froth around the edges (don’t let it boil!). Remove from heat.
- Briefly whisk the eggs and maple syrup in a large heatproof bowl, then carefully pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture, continuing to whisk gently.
- Once the fruit has been removed, turn the oven up to 160°C and boil a full kettle of water.
- Place a clean cotton or terry cloth in the base of a roasting tin – this will prevent the dish from sliding around. Grease a medium ovenproof dish and place on the cloth. Pour the custard mixture into the dish and put the roasting tin in the oven.
- Pour the boiled water around the dish – it should come about halfway up the sides, so you might need to boil a second kettle, depending on the size of your tin.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until just set. Don’t be alarmed if it still looks rather wobbly, as it will continue to set even after you’ve removed the dish from its water bath.
- Serve warm or refrigerate and serve chilled with the roasted fruit.
Zucchini. Courgette. Summer squash. Or baby marrow, as it is called in South Africa. I have a love-hate relationship with this veg. It tastes great grilled, marinated or slathered in dressing, but it is not the most nutrient dense choice, and I struggle to get it down raw (I know, I shouldn’t be admitting this, given the current zoodle fad…) And it really is a tad boring, if you’re honest. Having said that, it is a regular in my shopping basket, as its neutral taste means it is a good canvas for more exciting things, and makes it rather versatile from being grated into omelettes, breads, fritters and even brownies (check out the recipe in my book!), to featuring in beautiful sides such as a this one. Another surefire way to make the most of the humble zucchini, is this gluten- and grain-free quiche. It looks spectacular and tastes pretty darn good too.
Crustless Courgette Quiche
The leek and egg mix forms a rather delicious grain-free base and helps keep the courgette slices upright. Feel free to add a large handful of good quality grated Parmesan to the filling if you like – it will make it even more delicious!
Knob of butter or glug of extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, trimmed, cut in half length-wise and thinly sliced (about 250g)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, parsley and marjoram
9 medium eggs, whisked
125ml (1/2 cup) milk of your choice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 medium courgette (about 550g), trimmed
1/3 red pepper, finely diced
soft goats cheese (optional)
- Butter a 27/28cm oven-proof round dish and pre-heat the oven to 180°C/360°F.
- In a medium saucepan, sauté the leeks, onion and dried herbs with some of the salt over a low to medium heat until soft. Scrape into a bowl and allow to cool.
- In the same saucepan wilt the spinach (the water left over after washing should be enough), then remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- Use a mandolin (or a very sharp knife) to thinly slice your zucchini. Thin enough to bend, but thick enough to stand up on its side (about 3mm).
- Add 125ml (1/2 cup) of the whisked egg to the cooled leek mix. Spread this over the bottom of your buttered dish.
- Place the wilted spinach in a blender with the rest of the eggs, milk, salt and cayenne pepper, and whizz until the spinach is well blended.
- Now start placing the courgette slices into the leek “base”, starting along the edge of the dish, for stability, working your way inwards. Leave a little space between the “petals” of your rose, if possible. I steamed the slightly thicker rind pieces first, before slotting them into the rose, as they aren’t malleable enough otherwise.
- Now carefully pour the spinach egg mix in between the courgette petals, ensuring an even distribution.
- Finally scatter the little red pepper dice into the centre and bake for roughly 1 hour or until set in the centre.
- Serve with a mixed salad, soft goat’s cheese and additional red pepper dice.