The British culinary landscape has transformed over the last thirty years; the limited resources of the post war years, combined with a rise in the availability of fast and convenient food, meant that by the 1980s Britain’s cuisine was not exactly the most exciting in Europe. However, a younger generation, growing up in more affluent times, put paid to the evils of the garish 70s prawn cocktail and the equally neon tinned peaches. In more recent years our interest in healthy eating and good food has combined to create a fantastic range of excellent food outlets and restaurants. Then the recession happened and keeps on doing so; so is it back to tinned peaches and food colouring, over decent cuisine? Perhaps not; one feature of the recession is the rise, or resurgence, of the packed lunch, but this time we’ve let our imaginations run riot.
Pixies, Pack-ups and Pasties
The pack up has been with us, probably, forever. The traditional British pack up was the Cornish Pasty, which can be found across the UK in various forms. The original fast food to go, the pasty is still an easy option and they’re not so difficult to make at home. The great thing about the pasty is that the ingredients are up to you. Armed with a packet of puff pastry you can make a large or small batch with whatever you have to hand. Pasties are also a great way to make the most of that other recessionary ingredient; leftovers. Yesterday’s chilli becomes today’s spicy pasty filling while former stews can also be used up in this way and a cheese and onion pasty is easy to knock together. The original Cornish pasty was often a pasty of two parts, with one half featuring a sweet filling and the other a savoury and if you’re feeling adventurous you can give this a go. Cornish miners generally avoided eating the crust, throwing this down the shafts for the Knockers; pixie-like spirits that needed to be appeased. In the modern office the nearest you’ll find is the lift shaft, but I’m offering no guarantees as to whether this will appease the H&S manager.
If you’re bored with sandwiches and pasta pots for your daily dose of dinner, Dahl offers an alternative. This is one of my favourites because a large pot can prepared in advance and keeps well in the fridge. It’s also incredibly easy to make and it’s another of those dishes in which available ingredients can be used to determine the recipe. Basically Dahl is an Indian lentil and vegetable stew (although, there’s no law against adding meat if you wish). Onions, lentils, tomatoes and garlic form the basis of the dish; fry the onions off in oil and add the garlic and the tomatoes. Once the mix is bubbling add the lentils and cover with the mixture. For a full bag of lentils you’ll need a litre of vegetable stock, which you should add when the lentils have been mixed in. Simmer the Dahl with the lid off and allow it to reduce to a thick consistency. The finished dish can be kept in the fridge and packed in tupperware to be eaten hot or cold in the office. You’re free to add to any spices you like and ginger, garam masala or cumin go well. Spinach or other vegetables can also be added. Dahl makes a good, economical main meal served with rice and any leftovers can be added to the pack up to save yet more pennies the following day (or days). Quantities are largely up to you, but a basic guide is two onions, a tin of tomatoes (or eight fresh ones), a bag of lentils and a litre of stock. The amount of seasoning is really up to you, although I’ve heard a lot of garlic is believed to ward off evil spirits, like H&S managers.
Not only saving on the pennies, but apparently warding off evil spirits, packed lunches are the new/old working lunch solution. Healthy fruit and veg boxes can easily be added to a range of ingredients to cut the cost of lunch and create some imaginative alternatives to the traditional sandwich or pot of pasta.
Charlotteactively blogs about Fashion, Food & Drink with a range to everything from the latest cuisines to milk&more online food delivery. She likes shopping, discovering new products & enjoys traveling.