Back to school
Healthy food you can make in advance that keeps well and can be packed in a lunchbox or flask
Butternut squash, miso and lime soup. Food cooked and styled by Domini Kemp and Gillian Fallon. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
The declaration that fills me with dread this time of year is, “I need a packed lunch”. Far too frazzled and distracted to bear such a task in the morning, I stab and grab at items in the cupboards and fridge in some sort of demented supermarket sweep. Last night’s stew? No way. Frozen breadcrumbs and a stick of lemongrass? Well, it would get the teachers talking to social services, for sure. More often than not, last minute requests end up being serviced by a few stale crackers, a wedge of cheese, some dried fruit and nuts and a piece of regular fruit. It’s not exactly well thought out, but some of it will probably get eaten.
But in world where a little prep is possible, I would be happy to open up a container and enjoy either of the dishes on these pages. A good soup, hot from a thermos, is always desirable. I also love the fact that with the rice in it, this soup became a meal in itself. I had this for my lunch today and it was fabulous. The only thing to bear in mind is that it thickens up overnight once the cooked rice is added, so you may want to add some extra water when heating it up the next day.
The pasta was lovely served cold, even after two days in the fridge. Cold pasta salads are not something I’m fond of, but this one really worked and I will be making it again. I garnished it with some sprouts, but you could also add cherry tomatoes or chopped fennel or celery for e extra crunch. And you won’t even notice that it’s whole-wheat as the sauce is so rich and creamy that it tastes quite indulgent to be honest.
I am really partial to boiled eggs accompanied by a little wrapper of salt, but I appreciate this isn’t always desirable in a group setting. But I have discovered the perfect way to cook or rather boil eggs. By adding a few eggs to boiling water, you mess with the temperature too much, so the best way to cook eggs is to “steam” them by cooking them in just about two inches of simmering water in a pot covered with a lid, for six minutes for lovely soft eggs, and longer if you like them hard boiled.
Nothing beats boiled eggs mixed with a little curry powder, plus some yoghurt and olive oil to make it smooth and lush, lots of watercress for that peppery kick, served on lovely brown bread. Mayonnaise tastes even better, but olive oil and some yoghurt isn’t bad. The main thing is that all of these suggestions can be done at least the night before and so frazzled decisions can be kicked down the road when it’s time to pack lunch.