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Back in the office? 10 luscious packed lunches to beat the soggy sandwich blues | Food


One huge downside about the return to the workplace is lunch. At home, with full access to your kitchen and all the food you own, lunch could be a small event, a chance for you to break up the monotony of the day with a new recipe you’d been eager to try. Meanwhile, back at the office, you basically have to skint yourself every day on a mediocre shop-bought sandwich you’ve eaten a million times before. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Below, you will find 10 excellent, imaginative, quick and relatively easy lunches that you can make at home and eat at work. You’re welcome.

Let’s start with the classics. The problem with sandwiches is that, unless you’re prepared to put a little effort in, you’re doomed to a life of damp sliced bread and wilted cheese. A little more time and preparation and you could be sauntering into work with Rebecca Oliver’s smoked mackerel, fennel and almond sandwich. Heaving focaccia, packed with smoked mackerel, grated horseradish and a spectacular fennel sauce: this is about 15 minutes’ work for something leagues above the norm.

Then there is the pan bagnat, which is basically a niçoise salad sandwich. Perfectly Provence’s recipe is a little more labour-intensive than most, asking you to make your own mayonnaise, but I won’t rat you out if you’d prefer to spoon something out of a jar instead. The perfect thing about a pan bagnat is that it’s much better if you squash it down and leave it in a fridge for a few hours before you eat it, so it’s a good candidate to make before bed.

Pitta filled with cheese and assorted veg.
Pitta filled with cheese and assorted veg. Photograph: Natasha Breen/Alamy

We’re all about making something tasty and different to eat at work, not sandwiches that require a 40-minute ritual the night before. In which case, allow me to present Thomasina Miers’ easy-peasy pitta pockets. Cut a pitta in half and fill it with carrot ribbons, chopped spring onions, cheese and lettuce. It takes seconds to make, and packs a mighty punch.

If you find bread a little too unimaginative, Rosie Birkett has a brilliant alternative in her savoury crepe wraps. The crepes are seasoned with turmeric and cumin and, when cooled, provide the perfect delivery vehicle for any filling you like. Birkett suggests cold roast chicken or cheese, salad and herbs, but she isn’t the boss of you.

Let’s take a moment to remember the wonder that is readymade puff pastry. Grab a roll of it next time you go shopping, and you will enter a world of excellent lunch tarts. Caroline Craig and Sophie Missing have compiled a selection of four excellent toppings – my personal favourite is sausage, fennel and mustard – that you can quickly throw together, take to work and then drop all over your office floor.

A homemade farro salad.
A homemade farro salad. Photograph: bhofack2/Getty Images/iStockphoto

We probably need to address salads here. On paper, a salad is about the best thing you can eat for lunch – light on the stomach and potentially packed with nutrition. In reality, they’re often joyless and wilted by the time you come to eat it. Enter Grace Elkus’s antipasto grain salad, which comes billed as an “ultimate no-wilt” dish. The base of the salad is farro, which will hold up against pretty much anything, but comes livened up with mozzarella, peppers, olives and tomatoes. Make a big batch of this on Sunday night and it’ll see you through most of the week.

For something more compact, Skinny Ms’ taco salad in a jar recipe is hard to top. Cook some turkey mince, whip up a quick yoghurt and avocado dressing, then pile it into a mason jar with salad, cheese and smashed-up tortilla chips. Unbeatable.

Daunting but delicious … Korean kimbap.
Daunting but delicious … Korean kimbap. Photograph: Mi Jin Jeon/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Kimbap is a Korean rice roll, wrapped in seaweed and served in slices, and provides the perfect lunch portion. As My Korean Kitchen’s recipe demonstrates, it’s a dish that requires a lot of preparation. Carrots must be julienned, rice must be cooked, an omelette must be made. And, if you’re new to it, the assembly can be a little fiddly. But persevere! This is the world’s best sandwich alternative.

A slightly easier alternative than the rice rolls would be a gyeran-mari, a filled omelette roll that’s most usually served cold or at room temperature. Korean Bapsang’s recipe is the most basic version – the omelette is filled with just carrot and spring onion – but once you’ve found your feet, you can start experimenting with ham, peppers or anything else you like.

And now, finally, the daddy. Taste’s Kathy Knudsen has come up with a defiantly unhealthy, but blindingly brilliant, carbonara slice. That’s right, it’s a spaghetti carbonara that is essentially baked into a crustless quiche, then cut into rectangles and chilled. Tell me you don’t want to make this as soon as you can.



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