Monday, 17 August 2009

Packed-lunch series 1: Lentils salad

Fancy yet another soggy ham-and-cheese sandwich? Sushi assortment? Nicoise salad?

No? I thought so. Me neither. No matter how buzzing the neighborhood around your office, after a few months, its lunch options get old.

Add to that the omnipresent recession headlines and constant touting of the virtues of thriftiness since our economies spiralled out of control and packed lunches start sounding like a very good iea.

It needn't be painful, long or boring. An
d it doesn’t have to be unhealthy either. Invest in nice stack of tupperwares. I find that having pretty and functional accessories helps to motivate me.

The only downside of the packed lunch, I will readily admit, is that I sometimes end up wolfing it down at 11 a.m. in front of my computer and then spend the afternoon trying to decide what would be the least unhealthy treat to buy from the vending machine.

The Neapolitan is even worse. He sometimes forgets I have made lunch for him and only remembers it when I ask him, mid afternoon, how it was. He then proceeds to have it as an '"afternoon snack." As you might imagine this is not helping his efforts to squeeze himself into a pair of dark jeans circa 1994.

But apart from its propensity to be devoured hours before lunchtime, you really can't fault the packed lunch, particularly in the summer, when it's easy to find a bench or a patch of grass in the sun where to settle down.

In the next few weeks I will post some of my favourite recipes for packed lunched here. Give them a go and let me know what you think.

PS: Generally the lunches I make don’t need to spend the morning in the fridge. Although my office boasts a tiny kitchen, its fridge is such a health hazard I believe it’s actually safer to do without entirely.

Lentil salad:
250g dry puy or green lentils
140g cubed pancetta
3 shallots or spring onions
250g baby plum tomatoes
Small bunch of parsley

1 tablespoon dijon mustart
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of red or white-wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4.

Cover the lentils with cold water, bring to a boil and then simmer for roughly 15 minutes. When the water has evaporated, try the lentils. They should be cooked but retain some bite. It may be that you need to add another cup of water, don't be shy.

While the lentils are cooking, fry the pancetta in a small pan. You want it crisp and dark. Throw the excess fat in the toilet, not your sink, unless you want to clog it.

Cut your plum tomatoes in half. Dice the shallots and chop up the parsley. Wait for the lentils to cool down before mixing everything.

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