Packed lunch inspiration for the real ‘new year’

Great resolutions start by upgrading the sambo to a savoury muffin

Beetroot hummus and homemade oatcakes.

Beetroot hummus and homemade oatcakes.

 

September, for me, is the real new year of the calendar. Yes, I know January 1st marks the official start of a new year. But for a lot of chefs it is a crazy, busy time, just after the long hours of Christmas. It is more about the celebrations than any actual new beginning. 

September means a return to routine after the fun of the summer. As a university town, the students are back in Galway and all the kids in the school next to us on Sea Road have their shiny new books and school uniforms. It also means a return to packed lunches.

So we will start off with great intentions and resolutions to pack a better lunch. Cheese and pickle is not to be knocked, of course, but if your kids are tired of the same old sandwich, then why not try something new?

These savoury muffins are an upgrade on the standard sambo. They keep well in a tin and can be frozen too. Homemade oatcakes are hard to beat and while there is lots of good shop-bought hummus around, a homemade one will earn you extra brownie points. And, for a snack, this trail mix is the good kind, full of things to keep your brain ticking over.

I can’t promise that by January of next year you won’t have fallen off the wagon and be packing the lunch boxes with a stack of digestives, a jar of Nutella and a spork, but at least it’s a healthy start.

BEET HUMMUS WITH OATCAKES 
 

Beetroot hummus and homemade oatcakes.
Beetroot hummus and homemade oatcakes.

Ingredients
Makes about 20 oatcakes
100g cooked beetroot
1 tin chickpeas, drained
3 lemons, juiced
1tsp cumin
1 jar light tahini
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the oatcakes:
250g rolled oats
50g plain flour
¼tsp salt
¼tsp demerara sugar
100g cold butter, diced
75ml buttermilk
Pinch of baking powder

Method
1
Place all of the hummus ingredients in a blender or the processor. Blend until all are combined and smooth.

2 Season generously with salt and pepper.

3 Serve as a dip, in a salad or with crudites.

4 Preheat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

5 In a stand mixer, combine all of the oatcake ingredients, except the buttermilk, and mix with the paddle attachment until combined. While the machine is running on low speed, stream in the buttermilk and mix until the dough comes together to form a ball.

6 Wrap the dough in cling film and chill it for 10 minutes.

7 Roll the dough on a floured surface to ½cm thickness and cut into rounds.

8 Place on the baking tray and bake for 15-18 minutes, until just golden.

HAM AND CHEESE MUFFINS

Ham and cheese muffins.
Ham and cheese muffins.

Ingredients
Makes 10
250g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
½tsp bread soda
¼tsp salt
2 eggs
100g butter, melted
200ml-250ml buttermilk
150g grated Cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling
100g ham, shredded or cut into small chunks

Method
1
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius, or equivalent. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper cases.

2 Sieve the flour, baking powder, bread soda and salt together into a bowl. Whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and add to the dry ingredients with the melted butter. Add more buttermilk if needed to loosen the mixture.

3 Fold through the cheese and ham, being careful not to overmix.

4 Divide the mixture between the paper cases and top with more grated cheese.

5 Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

APPLE TRAIL MIX
 

Apple trail mix.
Apple trail mix.

Ingredients
Makes 1 large batch
100g dried apple slices
100g banana chips
100g whole almonds (leave them out if your school has a nut allergy policy, same with the cashews)
50g dried cranberries
50g dried apricots
50g cashews
20g pumpkin seeds
20g sunflower seeds
20g coconut flakes
20g golden raisins
4tbsp Golden Syrup
½tsp cinnamon

Method
1
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius, or equivalent. 

2 Place the almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on a large, lined baking tray. 

3 Add the Golden Syrup and cinnamon and coat all the nuts and seeds evenly.

4 Bake for 10 minutes, stirring half-way through. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

5 In a large mixing bowl add the apple, banana, apricot, cranberries and coconut flakes.

6 Add the toasted nuts and seeds and mix all together.

7 Portion out into small jars or bags ready for packed lunches or healthy snacks on the go.

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