It is that time of year again when the kids are going back to school and as a parent of very lively twins I know that it is important that their lunch boxes are not only filled with tasty food but also with food that will give them lots of energy! Here are a few suggestions for some simple lunch boxes and also a few ideas for lunch boxes that might take a little longer to prepare.
CLEVER LUNCHBOX IDEAS SOME MENU SUGGESTIONS
- Melon ball skewers (using different varieties)
- Cheese cubes with red and green grapes on skewers
- Banana wrap – smear vanilla yoghurt on a wholemeal wrap, put in a peeled banana, then roll up to enclose and cut into quarters
- Mini wholemeal pittas filled with lettuce, turkey, tomato relish and cherry tomatoes
- Baby carrots
- Roasted red pepper hummus (shop-bought or homemade)
- Bread sticks wrapped in thinly sliced baked ham or Parma ham
- Crunchy soya beans
- Dried apricots and cranberries
- Mixed berry smoothie
Take a protein-packed wrap into work or school, when you are travelling or even on a picnic. All these ideas are a feast in a delicious wholemeal wrap or flatbread. If you aren’t eating them immediately, it’s important to roll them up fairly tightly and wrap them in foil, then chill until ready to eat. Always eat within 24 hours and transport with an ice pack if serving as a packed lunch. Unwrap the foil as you eat the wrap so that everything stays together nicely.
Ham and Egg Salad
Smear a little low-fat mayonnaise down a wholemeal wrap or into the bottom of a split wholemeal pitta bread and arrange a sliced tomato and a few cucumber slices on top. Add a couple of wafer-thin slices of cooked ham and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Finish with a couple of shredded crisp lettuce leaves, then roll up and wrap tightly in tin foil.
Roast Beef with Dijon and Watercress
Smear a little Dijon mustard mixed with crème fraîche down the middle of a wholemeal wrap. Scatter fresh watercress on top and cover with thin slices of roast beef, then season with salt and pepper and add a couple small spoonfuls of hot or sweet pepper jelly. Roll up and wrap tightly in tin foil.
Roasted Red Pepper, Goat’s Cheese and Spinach
Spread a wholemeal wrap with a layer of soft goat’s cheese and season with salt and pepper. Arrange drained roasted red peppers from a can or jar on top, then scatter over a layer of baby spinach leaves. Roll up and wrap tightly in tin foil.
Although these adorable feasts tend to take a bit longer than a regular packed lunch, your child’s reaction will be worth it. Whether you decide to go super cool or not, you’ll need to purchase a bento box, which are now readily available in supermarkets and department stores.
Choose at least one option from each group:
Mandarin orange segments
Cubes of chicken
Chunks of their favourite cheese
Rolls of ham
Canned tuna flakes
Shredded cooked turkey
Pasta with tomato dipping saucepot
Mini pitta pockets
Slices of cucumber
Raw sugar snap peas or mangetout
Handful of sweetcorn
A few cherry tomatoes
SESAME CHICKEN PATTIES WITH CUCUMBER SALAD
- 450g (1lb) minced chicken
- 25g (1oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, plus extra
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 50g (2oz) sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- sweet chilli sauce, to serve
- 1 mini cucumber
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- sea salt and freshly ground
- black pepper
This is a great lunchbox for adults and children alike. However, if it’s going into a school, you’ll need to check to see if they’re allowed to bring in sesame seeds. They would also make a lovely picnic, as they are so transportable. Don’t be tempted to overcook them, as they will become dry once they cool down – the key is succulence!
To make the sesame chicken patties, place the chicken, breadcrumbs, spring onions, chilli sauce and coriander in a bowl and mix well to combine. Season to taste and shape into 12 small patties. Put the sesame seeds on a plate and press the seeds into both sides of the patties.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and shallow fry the sesame chicken patties over a medium to high heat for 3–4 minutes on each side, until cooked through and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, pare the cucumber into long, thin ribbons and place in a bowl. Mix the vinegar and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and then use to dress the cucumber.
To serve, pack the sesame chicken patties in a heatproof lunchbox with a separate pot of the pickled cucumber and a sealed dipping bowl of sweet chilli sauce.
Brown wheaten bread
MAKES 2 X 450G (1LB) LOAVES
rapeseed oil, for greasing
450g (1lb) strong white flour, plus
extra for dusting
450g (1lb) wholemeal flour
1 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp fine salt
4 tsp melted butter, plus extra for
spreading to serve
600ml (1 pint) buttermilk, plus extra
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp golden syrup
handful of porridge oats
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6). Lightly oil 2 x
600ml (1 pint) loaf tins.
2 Sift the flours into a large bowl, then stir in the brown sugar,
bicarbonate of soda and salt. Make a well in the centre and
add the melted butter, buttermilk, sunflower seeds and golden
syrup. Using a large spoon, mix gently and quickly until you
have achieved a nice dropping consistency. Add a little bit
more buttermilk if necessary, until the dough binds together
without being sloppy.
3 Divide the mixture equally between the prepared loaf tins
and sprinkle over the porridge oats, pumpkin seeds and
sesame seeds. Bake for 40 minutes, until cooked through and
each loaf has a slightly cracked, crusty top, checking halfway
through the cooking time to make sure that the loaves aren’t
browning too much. If they are, reduce the temperature or
move the loaves down in the oven.
4 To check that the loaves are properly cooked, tip each one out
of the tin and tap the base – it should sound hollow. If it doesn’t,
return it to the oven for another 5 minutes. Tip out onto a wire
rack and leave to cool completely.
5 To serve, place the brown wheaten bread on a breadboard and
cut into slices at the table. Hand around with a separate pot of
butter for spreading.
- 500g sausage meat
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- freshly ground black pepper
- 500g frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
- To make the filling, mix the sausage meat in a bowl with the onion, sweet chilli sauce, parmesan and parsley. Season to taste with a little pepper
- Cut the pastry in half and roll out one piece to make a long oblong shape that’s 33cm x 23cm
- Form half of the filling into a long log shape that will run the whole length of the pastry, approximately 5mm from the edge
- Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg, then fold the pastry over to enclose the filling and press down well to seal the edges, either crimping them with your fingers or pressing down with a fork
- Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling
- Cut the long sausage roll into bite-sized pieces, trimming down and discarding the ends
- Brush with beaten egg to glaze and arrange on the lined baking sheets, if you are cooking the sausage rolls immediately, bake for 15–20 minutes, until cooked through and lightly golden, swapping the baking sheets around on the oven shelves halfway through.
- Arrange on plates or a large platter and serve hot or cold