Whipped Out

Stuff that matters

I’ve run out of ideas for quick working-from-home lunches. Can you inspire me?
Nick, London E2

The problem with work-from-home eating is that no one wants to spend their lunch break cooking and washing up, while reheating a vat of soup gets a bit samey by day three. Salvation, says Freddie Janssen, owner of east London’s Snackbar, can be found in pickles, kimchis and krauts: “Having a fridge full of condiments can really make a meal.”

Topping her list are soy-cured eggs. “They’re great to put on rice bowls or soba noodle salads with crunchy veg, greens and a simple tahini, soy sauce, honey and lime dressing,” says Janssen, who recently launched a local delivery service, Snackbar at Home. Get ahead by pickling six at a time: “Boil the eggs – for six minutes 45 seconds – then chill them, peel, pop in a container with 500ml light soy sauce, 300ml water, 100ml rice-wine vinegar and 100g sugar, and leave. They’ll take on this great umami flavour.” To make sure the eggs all cure evenly (they tend to bob up), cover them with kitchen roll soaked in the brine.

Tommy Banks is all about the three-egg omelette – slices of baron bigod or tunworth cheese compulsory. “It makes a boring lunch luxurious,” says the chef-director of Yorkshire’s The Black Swan at Oldstead, Made in Oldstead and Roots. The secret to a soft, light omelette, Banks says, is to start with a warm pan (“when you put in the butter, it foams but doesn’t colour”), then add copious cheese (plus ham or mushrooms, if you fancy). And while he is a self-confessed “salad dodger”, a side of leaves in a honey and mustard dressing wouldn’t go amiss.

Toasties are always a good idea, too – provided you have the right equipment. “Making a good one at home can be a faff, because you need a good pan and to weigh the sandwich down,” Janssen says, “so I use a cheap sandwich maker.” Her go-to filling is cheddar and kimchi, although you could add the likes of sprouting broccoli or chutney. “You’ll need more cheese than you think, and always use grated,” she adds. “And slather mayonnaise on the outside of the bread, so it crisps.”

Freddy Bird, chef/owner of Bristol bistro Little French, is also a fan of the molten cheese lunch, although it can have an unfortunate side effect: “I fall asleep.” To keep perky, he favours a spicy, Turkish-style chopped salad, while Imad Alarnab, who was planning on opening his first permanent site, Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, in Soho this autumn, goes for fattoush. He combines cucumber, cherry tomatoes, (boiled) black lentils and flatbread (“you can dry it or fry it”) with apple cider vinegar, pomegranate molasses and dried mint. Another Alarnab favourite is halloumi, cubed avocado, tomatoes, mint and lime juice, seasoned with salt and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil.

When only comfort will do, Bird turns to a one-pan chicken dish made (mainly) from whatever’s in the cupboard, which he serves with steamed broccoli to mop up the juices. “Cook a batted-out chicken breast skin side down in a pan, chucking in a bit of garlic towards the end,” he says. Remove the meat, deglaze the pan with white wine, cream, mustard, herbs (tarragon or parsley) and stock, and reduce. “It’s not the healthiest, it’s not the unhealthiest,” Bird says, “but it is satisfying and a 10-minute job.”