If your lunchtime meal is becoming a little dull and uninspiring, perhaps it’s time to swap it for something far more worthy – a lunch fit for a king or queen?
With spring in the air we can even start to think about eating lunch outside and get some vitamin D, too.
All too often we may find our eating habits slipping into bad ways. With a little effort and a few simple steps we can all improve our daily nutrition. Perhaps it’s time to think about having our main meal at lunchtime? There is a lot to be said about this or at least taking the effort to improve the nutritional quality of our midday meal.
Why do we tend to eat the main meal in the evening? This is an interesting question. The answer is partially cultural and part practical. But, if we don’t have the same pressure of work as we once may have had, perhaps swapping to a lunchtime main meal is something to consider?
A little planning
For any change to be successful, the key is a little planning. I would not over-plan though: a little spontaneity and variety can help to prevent falling into ritually having the same dishes time and time again. VfL’s searchable recipe database is a great place to start.
Virtually a good meal
While we are still in a period of staying at home, perhaps you could try sharing a meal with a friend virtually? Zoom, Teams and WhatsApp are all really easy to use (when you have done it once). Perhaps join our Virtual Lunch Club? It’s a great way to meet fellow vegans and vegetarians. It’s free to join and runs once a month. Your host Chef Justina will give you a warm welcome and make you feel at home in no time at all. Pop a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org expressing an interest and she will answer any questions you have. Ellie will also send you a Zoom link to join. If you are new to Zoom she will also help you to get started. The lunch club is free, so what’s not to like?
Take your time
Make an occasion of your meal. When I was a child, the table had to be set with a tablecloth and milk in a jug (never an open bottle). I always thought it was a faff but now, I like the sense of occasion and formality it brings.
Lighter, not less nutritious
Any homemade soup really is a good option. Get your pulse racing with the inclusion of a handful of beans or lentils. Serve your soup with homemade soda bread. If this is one step too far, get some fancy bread from the supermarket.
Are we having a starter?
A starter can really turn an ordinary meal into something special. It does not have to be complex or time consuming. Half an avocado filled with chopped tomato, dressed with olive oil. Perhaps a field mushroom fried in garlic topped with a little cheese? Have a look in your fridge, it can be a good way to use things up. Get creative.
Simple and nutritious
Jacket potatoes are often overlooked but are cheap, nutritious, easy to make and can be served and used in a variety of ways. Bake more than you will eat that day to take advantage of the oven being on. What you don’t eat straight away can either be frozen or be reinvented as a topping for Lancashire hot pot, or scoop out the potato to make gnocchi.
Chef Justina developed a wonderful gnocchi recipe served with a red pepper sauce. This recipe was featured as part of our recipe calendar 2021. The empty skins are simply delicious filled with fried onions, cheese, beans, garlic and mushrooms.
Homemade burgers could be a good option. Either develop your own recipes with a combination of mashed beans e.g. borlotti, chickpeas, kidney etc. chopped nuts, onion, garlic, herbs and spices. Combine the mixture together with a little flour. Shape into patties, refrigerate, then gently fry. The combinations of ingredients are limitless and you can suit your own flavour preferences. Or perhaps try one of our burger recipes?
I have made this one several times. It is a lovely combination of black beans, rice, walnuts and spices. It works really well as is, or you could take your own slant by adding additional herbs or use mixed nuts, chopped mushrooms, sundried tomatoes etc. Serve in a seeded roll with sliced gherkins, tomato, lettuce and a dollop of mayonnaise.
On a patty theme, how about Greek – courgette or sweetcorn fritters? These perfect lunch ideas play on a similar theme, are easy to make, and can be served with a salad, or maybe one of those extra potatoes you cooked previously. A little planning comes in handy sometimes.
And to finish?
I did not think that I had a sweet tooth. This is clearly not the case having been eating sticky toffee pudding at least twice a week for the past month. I have started to make it without the sauce and so lessen the empty calories. It is plenty sweet enough just as a cake. It does contain some sugar but most of the sweetness comes from dates, which are a source of several vitamins and minerals and are high in fibre. It also freezes well if you want to save half for another time.
Fruit salad – yes I know what you are thinking. You thought we had moved on? Bear with me on this. When was the last time you actually had a fruit salad? Sometimes what you were once served all the time and became a cliché is worth a second look. It will contribute significantly to your 5 a day; fruit is packed with vitamins; and will help to keep you hydrated. What’s not to love? Recently I have started getting into bags of frozen fruit, summer berries, mango, cherries… all good.
If you want something more substantial but quick to make, what about Apple Charlotte? As a child I remember my mum buttering and coating sliced bread in sugar and lining a bowl. This was filled with chopped apple, a few raisins and a little cinnamon. All of this was topped with more bread then baked. Delicious with hot custard. Our recipe is, I guess, a deconstructed version. Stewed apple in the bottom of a glass topped off with toasted breadcrumbs, chopped nuts, spice and a little sugar.
Whatever you choose to do, treat yourself to something special. Invite a few friends to join you over a Zoom meeting, and enjoy the occasion of a satisfying lunch.