Fed up with getting back a still-full lunchbox? The sandwiches you made with so much love and care at some ungodly hour in the morning left untouched? The only thing missing, the “treat” chocolate bar? Then try our pick of the best books of lunch-box recipes and enjoy a more relaxed morning, along with a ‘good-mum’ glow.
Lunchboxes by Annabel Karmel (Ebury Press, £6.99) The kids’ cooking guru turns her attention to lunch boxes and offers lots of recipes and meal plans. You’ll find sandwiches, savoury specialties, sweet surprises, dairy diversions and drinks. Where possible, there are also tips for preparing food in advance and all recipes sensibly assume you won’t have much time in the mornings, but still need to produce a balanced meal that can be eaten quickly.
Stuffed Pitta Pockets
Makes 4 pockets
200g (7oz) can tuna in oil
100g (4oz) sweetcorn
1 tsp white-wine vinegar
4 spring onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few drops Tabasco sauce
Salad cress (optional)
2 pitta breads
1 Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for seven to eight minutes (the yolk should be solid). Drain and cool under cold water. Peel the eggs when cold.
2 Meanwhile, strain the oil from the can of tuna and mix the flaked tuna with the sweetcorn, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, spring onion, salt and pepper, and the Tabasco sauce.
3 Roughly chop the hard-boiled eggs and add to the tuna mix with the salad cress (if using), stirring well.
4 Cut the pitta breads in half to give four pitta pockets and divide the mixture between them.
My Lunch Box: 50 Recipes For Kids To Take To School by Hilary Karmilowicz (Chronicle, £10). This neat little box, sweetly illustrated, contains 50 easy recipes divided into mains, sides and treats. The idea is that your child should help in the making, hopefully thereby encouraging him in the eating. There are also tips on keeping food hot or cold, 15 cards with space to fill in your own favourite recipes and 50 fun stickers.
Chow-Down Chicken Chilli
2 tbsp olive oil
140g (5oz) chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp dried oregano
420g (15oz) cubed, cooked chicken
2x425g (15oz) cans white beans
340g (12oz) chopped tomatoes
1 In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Then, add the onion and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, until soft and tender.
2 Add the tomato paste, chili powder, salt and oregano. Stir until the ingredients are well combined.
3 Add the chicken, beans and chopped tomatoes.
4 Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
5 Fill preheated, stay-hot food storage containers with the chili.
Lunch Boxes by Jennifer Joyce (Michael Joseph, £10) Packed full of tasty sandwiches, wraps and rolls, snacks and dips, salads, sweets and treats, and stuff to make ahead, this book will be your friend on those busy mornings when you’re stuck for lunch ideas. Each chapter has a handy list of ingredients to buy and there are also the “health bits”– useful lists of fruit and veg you can use with nutritional tips – plus a week’s lunch plan and shopping list.
Little Greek Macaroni Salad
60g (2oz) macaroni or other small pasta
6 black olives
Handful diced cucumber
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
200g (7oz) feta cheese, cubed
2tbsp red wine vinegar
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Boil the pasta in salted water. Drain, rinse with cold water and rinse again.
2 Place in a bowl with the olives, cucumber, tomatoes, feta, vinegar and oil.
3 Season with salt and pepper, and toss together. Refrigerate until needed (keeps for two days).
Healthy Lunchboxes For Kids by Amanda Grant (Ryland, Peters & Small, £14.99) With lovely bright photos and an easy layout, this book has yummy recipes, but also manages to contain pretty detailed nutritional information on fruit and vegetable requirements, the amount of calcium, carbohydrates and protein your kids need and the sugar, salt and fats they don’t.
Makes 12 muffins
50g (2oz) butter
300g (10½ oz) self-raising flour
2tsp baking powder
80g (3oz) golden caster sugar
110ml (4fl oz) natural yoghurt (or milk)
A few drops of vanilla extract
2 big handfuls of berries (eg blueberries or raspberries)
1 Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6. Line a 12-holed muffin tin with paper cases – if you don’t have any, just grease the muffin holes really with butter.
2 Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small pan. Leave to cool slightly. Sift the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the sugar to the flour.
3 In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork, add the yoghurt, vanilla extract and melted butter.
4 Quickly and gently mix everything together in the large bowl. Don’t over-mix or your muffins will not be light. Quickly fold in the fruit and then spoon the mixture into the cases.
5 Bake for 25–30 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Take the muffins out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. When they have completely cooled, place in an airtight container, or you could bag, label, and freeze half for another time.
The Good Green Lunchbox by Jocelyn Miller (Lion, £5.99). Did you know that even your lunch boxes can go green? This fun book uses seasonal, Fairtrade and ethically sourced products to make delicious lunches, plus it teaches you how to reuse leftover materials for packaging. There are even instructions for growing your own salads and tips on being green scattered throughout.
Cool Cucumber Dip
Makes two servings
150g (5oz) yoghurt
1tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of ground pepper
Small handful of mint leaves
Carrot, pepper, celery, cucumber, cut into sticks for dipping
1 Peel the skin off the cucumber (and compost it) and cut the flesh into small cubes.
2 Mix the cucumber into a bowl with the yoghurt, olive oil, and pepper.
3 Wash the mint leaves, chop finely, and stir into the yoghurt.