Aaron Brunet shows how to make quick but satisfying container lunches with a few pre-prepped components
I’ve been playing with ways to make it easy and quick to take a tasty and nutritious lunch to work, ideally one that takes almost no time to chuck in a container as I leave the house. What’s worked best for me is a handful of pre-prepped components with flexibility to innovate.
At the start of the week I make up a big batch of long lastingsalad: shredded cabbage, grated carrot and fresh sprouts. This “cabcar” mix is fine in the fridge until Friday morning, as long as it isn’t dressed, and is the regular feature of each day’s lunchbox.
I keep a stash of pre-made toppings in the pantry: cashew parmesan, tamari seeds and spicy peanut butter. These nut and seed components boost the protein content of all those healthy vegetables while also adding interesting textures. For fragrant freshness, I pick whatever I can find from the potted garden at my backdoor: parsley, coriander, rocket, basil, or mint.
Each morning I start with whatever leftovers I have, zhuzhing them up a bit where needed: roast pumpkin (squeeze orange juice over to moisten), chopped baked potatoes (add chopped tomato and basil), leftover stirfried veges (a squeeze of lime is good), cooked quinoa or brown rice (add a splash of tamari and olive oil).
Cooked sweetcorn is another great base (with a little kashmiri chilli and olive oil mixed in). A slightly embarrassing but delicious option is crushed corn chips with tomato passata straight from the can — the mix of crunch and sogginess is magic by lunchtime (season and add kashmiri chilli to taste).
Once I layer the “cabcar” mix, fresh herbs and toppings I know I have a really interesting and healthy lunchbox waiting for me in the fridge. It usually takes about 90 seconds to assemble, so it’s an easy and affordable way to eat a nutritious dose of yum each workday.
¼ of a green cabbage, sliced very thinly with knife or mandoline
2 carrots, peeled and grated
A good handful fresh sprouts (alfalfa, mung, fenugreek)
Fresh herbs of your choice
Any green leafy veges like silverbeet or kale
Any available leftovers
Toasted tamari seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp tamari
Toast seeds in a heavy based pan for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned and crackling, then remove from heat and sprinkle with tamari, stirring until all the liquid is evaporated and is coating the hot seeds.
Make-ahead flavour boosters
- I like to start by taking a lunch container and seeing what leftovers I have in the fridge (as above).
- Now build a fresh layer on top: Add a handful of cabbage and carrot mix, and any fresh herbs/rocket/mint that suit your base layer. Sprinkle this with a little salt and a teaspoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice, don't worry about mixing it in, that will take care of itself on the way to work.
- A couple of tablespoons of cashew parmesan will turn into a lovely coating by lunchtime, and a sprinkle of tamari seeds goes well too. If you sneak a dollop of peanut butter on one side of your container, you can aim your fork that way whenever you want a richer mouthful.