4 Easy Recipes To Upgrade Your Lunch Hour

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"What’s for lunch?" Is the age-old refrain that plagues us every day as soon as we start to feel the first rumbles in our stomach. Rather than just sleepwalk over to Pret and grab that old-familiar sandwich, why not cook up something just a little more tasty?

It may seem like more than you can take on — after all, cooking dinner is enough of an issue — but trust us, these recipes are delicious, nutritious, and outside of the (lunch) box. Forget garden salads and toasted cheese sandwiches — these recipes, from London's leading chefs and food bloggers, are the real deal and are as easy to prepare as they are to eat. Get ready to make your co-workers jealous.

Chunky-Moroccan-Soup_1Photo: Courtesy of She Cooks, She Eats.

Chunky Moroccan soup

If the weather over the past few weeks has been any sort of preview, then we’re in for a doozy this winter. Stay warm with this chunky Moroccan soup recipe, courtesy of food blogger, Amy Jones of She Cooks, She Eats. Make it Sunday and bring it for lunch during the week…or even reheat for dinner. This soup will keep you nice and toasty whatever the weather, plus it’s veggie friendly and delicious, too.

Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash
1 red onion
1 garlic clove
200ml vegetable stock
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of chickpeas
150g of sweet corn
Cumin
Parsley or coriander, to garnish

1. Peel and dice the squash, discarding the seeds, and slice the red onion. Fry in a non-stick saucepan with the crushed garlic clove for 10 minutes, until the squash is just starting to go soft.

2. Add the vegetable stock, a can of chopped tomatoes, a can of drained chickpeas, 150g of sweet corn, two teaspoons of ground cumin, and some salt and pepper.

3. Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the soup has thickened.

4. Take a few big ladles and add them to soup bowls. Garnish with parsley or coriander.


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Parma-Ham-BruschettaPhoto: Courtesy of the Chancery Court Hotel.

Parma ham bruschetta
If you can't crack your sandwich, allow us to suggest a fresh new alternative. The open sandwich. Robin Carr's, sous chef at the Chancery Court Hotel recipe for a parma ham bruschetta is as mouthwatering as it is easy to assemble. The entire creation can be whisked up in minutes.

Ingredients:

1 slice of baguette
3 slices of Parma ham
10g feta cheese
1 peach
Rocket leaves
Olive oil
Cress to garnish

1. Slice bread into a long diagonal shape and cut into individual pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and grill until each piece is golden and crispy.

2. Cut the peach down the center around the pit. Pull apart and discard the pit, and cut the rest of the peach into slices.

3. Arrange bread with leaves over the top and place a mixture of peaches and Parma ham over the top of the leaves.

4. Finish by crumbling feta cheese over top. Growing cress can also be added – it gives a lovely peppery texture which compliments the sharp taste of the feta .

5. Drizzle olive oil on top and add fresh ground pepper to taste.
Parma-Ham,-Peaches-and-Pomegranate-Salad-(1)Photo: Courtesy of the Chancery Court Hotel.

Parma ham, peaches, & pomegranate salad
Another garden salad – we’re bored even thinking about it. Shake up your regular order and get a little posh by combining elements that you might not think would work together in a salad but man, do they ever. Thanks to Carr, this recipe will help you score major protein points, courtesy of the Parma ham, while the nutrient-dense pomegranate will give a big boost to your antioxidant levels, and the peach just tastes, well, nice. Sit back, relax, and forget that side salads ever existed.

Ingredients:

Salad
1 ripe peach cut into wedges (Test the skin – it should be soft but not bruised.)
5 slices of Parma ham
1 pomegranate de-seeded
Wild rocket

Dressing
30ml olive oil
10ml balsamic vinegar
10ml raspberry juice
Salt
Pepper

Balsamic Glaze
10ml balsamic vinegar
5g honey

1. Cut the peach down the center around the pit. Pull apart and discard the pit, then cut the peach into wedges.

2. Cut the top and bottom off of the entire pomegranate, then cut it into wedges. Pick out the seeds, and discard the skin.

3. Next, pour the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and raspberry juice into a bowl. Whisk to combine the ingredients, and then season to taste.

4. Take your finished product and drizzle over salad leaves to lightly dress them.

5. In a pan, combine balsamic vinegar and honey and bring to a boil, then reduce until you reach a syrup consistency or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

6. Arrange the salad leaves, peaches, and Parma ham on a plate. Scatter over pomegranate and finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and dressing.
Stuffed-Peppers-(1)Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Phipps.

Stuffed peppers
The key to the perfect lunch is finding something that will fill you up without leaving you overstuffed and drowsy for the rest of the afternoon. You also need something that packs easily and travels lightly. Enter the stuffed pepper – the alternative lunch we swear by. This particular dish is developed by food blogger, Rachel Phipps, and the anchovies and garlic within it give it an anything-but-boring taste. It's the perfect balance of lean protein and veggies to keep you going strong all afternoon. This may be our new favourite.

Ingredients:

1 red bell pepper
2 large handfuls of ripe cherry tomatoes
4 small garlic cloves
6 - 8 anchovies, preserved in oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius, and drop the temperature by about 10 degrees of you have a fan-assisted oven.

2. Halve the pepper and remove the stalk and the seeds, then halve the cherry tomatoes and arrange inside the two pepper halves.

3. Peel and halve the garlic cloves and nestle them among the tomatoes.

4. Lay 3 or 4 anchovies across the top of each pepper.

5. Season well and drizzle with olive oil before roasting on an oiled baking tray for about an hour and a half or until the peppers are slightly browned around the edges.