Sunday, 6 June 2010

New beginings, old soups

Tomorrow, I start a new job.

This has a number of implications. Firstly, I haven't written on here in ages, for which I apologise to anyone who minded. The rush of finishing up one job, preparing for another and organising a Greek-Cypriot themed meal for 17 for a friend's hen do conspired to squeeze out any spare time.

Secondly, I have a whole new office lunch set up to look forward to - focusing on fears over kitchen set up and the lunch-friendliness of colleagues is a wonderful way to quash some more significant fears about my ability to do the job in question.

Thirdly I have a later start and shorter commute so hopefully ( hopefully) I will have more time to photograph lunches and write before work...

But before all that, I have one last lunch from my old work - a classic standby of miso soup with rice noodles and salad/stir fry veg.

I have outlined the method below, though this one was unsual - normally I use a packet of prepared stir fry veg (M&S pea shoot variety when feeling flush; sainsbury's bean sprout variety at other times). On this occasion my stir fry had unjustly been thrown out by an over zealous colleague who thought it was off. So I substituted pea shoot salad borrowed from a colleague, and radishes which I keep in the fridge for snacking. Sliced in half with a squeezer of lemon and a dash of fish sauce (or sprinkle of salt for those of you with less scarred palettes), they make a good distraction from chocolate mid afternoon.

Office Miso

Packets of miso soup powder or paste
Rice noodles
Salad/stir fry veg of choice.
Large bowl, plate, kettle (microwave if possible)

add miso and noodles to bowl (I use two packets as I like strong tastes)
add noodles (you might have to break them up)
Pour over freshly boiled water to cover (85o water from water cooler/heater will work at a push but you'll need to leave ages and the noodles won't really soften)
cover and microwave for a minute or leave to stand for minute or two
(chop salad veg now if you need to)
Add stir fry/salad, stir through, add any seasoning (I like a lot of lemon juice and bit of soy)
Cover again and leave for 3-5 minutes (you might also want to pop in microwave if you want to wilt/soften the veg more, I like the crunch).


PS sorry no pic, I took one but have in the chaos of leaving mislaid the USB stick I put them on. Next time I make one I will snap and post

Friday, 9 April 2010

French fancies

A leftover lunch today, so a bit of a cobbled together mess, but nonetheless a lunch I am pleased with.

Falling back on the bread in my drawer, I am enjoying what might be termed 'Classic French Sauce detritus on Rye'.

For I am eating cold Mirepoix and reheated tomatoes/mushrooms which were part of a recent attempt to make Sauce Espagnole which, I am informed, is one of the 'Mother Sauces' of classic french cuisine.

The tomatoes, while very tender and rich, are a bit salty thanks to prolonged simmering in beef stock. The mirepoix, however is a lunch revelation.

It's pretty easy to make if you either like chopping or cheat and use a processor. According to my copy of Larousse Gastronimque, you finely chop 50g celery, 100g onion and 150g carrot. You then soften all of these in some butter (25g, I think) adding a sprig of time and half a bayleaf. It should take, they say, 20 minutes.

You use just one tbsp to make Espagnole Sauce, so I had all this leftover Mirepoix which tastes wonderful - the slightly spiced and herbed flavour is abit like stuffin and, when cold, the veg have a lovely texture - mostly smooth with the occasional bite in the larger carrots.

It has a gentle sweetness so combined with the substantial, malted taste of the rye it is very pleaseing indeed. I shall be pondering how to use this mirepoix in other lunches over the next few weeks, though I suspect it will come into its own in Autumn. But it never hurts to be I now have a whole load of mirepoix in the fridge and I'd hate to see it go to waste.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

An office lunch perennial

Excuse the messing plating, but doesn’t that lunch just cheer up the pile of paper and work no end?

It is one of my favourite office stand-bys: easy to assemble, tasty, can be purchased when you forget to bring something from home, and always brings murmurs of interest from colleagues.

I call it, somewhat pompously, my deconstructed guacamole open sandwich. I normally use rye bread that you get in a little resealable packet as it lasts well in my desk drawer, but toasted sourdough or another firm bread would work well – needs to have a bit of nutty savouryness, though, to go with the nutty creamy avocado.

It’s a very simple recipe – I just cut an avocado in half, scoop out the flesh and squash it onto the bread (normally one half onto each piece of bread) then scatter with halved baby tomatoes and chopped spring onions ( I use scissors as it’s easier in the office than using a butter knife to chop them…I also wash the spring onions using a water cooler and a bowl – happy times in our sinkless, windowless hole). Squeeze over lemon juice, add Tabasco and salt to taste, or chilli flakes if I have them, and we’re away: a little bit of sunshine to get me through the day.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The slump continues

Just a quick post to say Office Lunch Club fell flat on its arse due to general disorganisation. We are not deterred. We still love lunch, and we still love wittering on. We just need to take a new direction, to be confirmed. Probably it will just involve me posting pics of my lunches for a while until we think of a new event to cover.

In the meantime can I recommend Australian Masterchef as a wonder of light entertainment and food TV. If you like in the UK it is on Watch everynight at around 7 and it puts our Masterchef to shame. Sure we might be more highbrow, and serious in our approach, but no one does competition like the Aussies, and twice I have heard a contestant say words to the effect of 'meat on a stick is great, mate'. Tonight they are catering for a wedding and I expect to cry, as I do at any wedding related event or TV show.

Happy viewing.

Monday, 15 February 2010

An early lull

Today should have marked the triumphant start of Lunch club 2010. Instead, a combination of holidays and people having already given up because they are leaving in two weeks meant that no food was served today, nor will it be until Thursday.

But we will not dwell on the negatives; nor will we dwell on wondering why some people signed up for Lunch Club if they were just going to lame out.

Instead, let us think of the positives of lunch today - a reheat job but one of those occasions where reheating was just what the dish needed. Twas a combination of fried chicken, fried cooking apples and mash potatoes, parts of a Chicken and Apple with Cider and Cream dish I made at the weekend (or rather, we made, for my husband made it with me). The cider and cream sauce was uninspiring but the chicken and apples, splashed with tabasco, were a satisfying way to start the week. And most importantly they drew comments from my desk colleague, so gave a chance for food chats.

And last week, I was mostly enjoying Nigel Slater's Leek, Appple & LEmon soup from last month's OFM. Tis a sweet/sour broth, silky with leeks and served over toasted bread drizzled with olive oil. The bread soaks up the lemony broth and becomes a soft stodgy mess of yum.

We await with excitement whether team lame can live up to this kind of satisfying, diverting, discussion-making lunch....

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Launching Lunches

Breakfast, they say, is the most important meal of the day. I'm not so sure. I love breakfast of course, just as I love dinner and snacks and any opportunity to eat through the day. But on weekdays as I struggle through the daily grind, lunch has a special place in my heart.

Lunch shines as a beacon of comfort and control in the middle of work days which can range from tedious to tear inducingly stressful and back again in the course of a few hours. I realise that makes me sound like I have a borderline eating disorder, but to unpack it...A good lunch is comfort because it provides something to look forward to; something to discuss and possibly gloat over with colleagues; something to remember with fondness as you work your way towards the afternoon snack. Lunch is control because I bring in or make my own lunch, and it serves as a reminder that I can manage something right even if I'm not making any progress with my work today.

Granted I wish I could make more of my office lunches (a significant factor in my choice of career was those fabled long liquid lunches us 4th estaters are supposed to enjoy). I'm sad to say I spend most of my lunchhour hunched over the desk in my windowless office, splashing soup and spilling crumbs on my germ-laden keyboard. I also admit that on busy days I can get to mid afternoon and suddenly realise that the reason I feel so rubbish is that I've not eaten properly and have subsisted on chocolate, teas, fruit (on a good week) or (more likely) any other random bits of snack I can lay claim to in the office fridge/kitchen area.

I do not have the same type of lunch obsession of my colleagues who leave every day at 12.30 on the dot and who would no more forget to leave than they would forget to log onto BBC sports as soon as they return from the supermarket and get stuck into their chosen meal for the day. Nor do I (often) join the 'what to eat for lunch today' debates because I am the sort of controlling person who not only brings in their own lunch but plans all her options for the week ahead on Sunday because she likes to know what's happening well in advance. Nor am I often feeling flush (time or money) enough to join outings to restaurants or pubs in the area. That's not to say I don't enjoy a lunch out, and would eat out more often if I could, but it is something about bringing in my own lunch each day that makes my lunch obsession my own.

As well as a love of planning and control, this own-lunch obsession partly stems from a dislike of pre-packed sandwiches and ready meals which means bringing in my own is the only way to ensure I'll have a good lunch. And a bad lunch as anyone knows can ruin a whole day, leaving you angry at a wasted opportunity and possibly hungry too which is even worse.

So that is my take on lunch and as I have alluded, others in my office also share a lunch/food obsession as well as my love of cooking. We are also lucky to be a fairly young and small team who get on well and like nothing better than some slightly pointless organised fun/socialising/competition.

So the Lunch Club was born. The basic concept is a group of people club together and each week one of them cooks a lunch for the others. I emailed this concept round the office and two days of group email/collective fannying about ensued. We ended up with the following arrangement. Six of us have formed the Club, split into three teams of two (pairs, I suppose, but then we couldn't give ourselves team names). Each week for three weeks (starting not tomorrow but the following Monday), one team will bring in lunch for the others . We will rate them out of 10, and in the end the winners get an as yet unspecified prize.

Already we have begun to dream of future Lunch Club competitions and events. Potluck picnics, international lunch days...the possibilities to distract ourselves and create a bit of pointless fun in the middle of the day are endless. And I hope to chronicle them all here.