Staff Lunch Club

Breaking Bread is basically a lunch club... (Photo by avlxyz)

It’s a neat simple idea. It offers tastier, cheaper, work lunches with less work. Yet we cannot persuade others to join…

It’s the Carey Staff Lunch Club. The idea is simple, any menbers take it in turns to make a lunch to share with the others. The only rules are the lunch has to be cheap, tasty, filling and nourishing. (So far we have majored on beans which do these things very well, but it won’t always be beans.)

Even with two members we each have to prepare (or buy πŸ™ lunch half as often, but if we had more people the work would be more distributed and so less. So, how come despite four really tasty and attractive looking offerings no one else is beating the door down to join? Have you tried a lunch club at your place of work, how did it work? Is there a secret?

Nathan’s Really Quick, Really Tasty, Really Easy Lunch

The remains of the Really Quick, Really Tasty, Really Easy Lunch after the Carey Baptist College Staff Lunch Club had both eaten their fill
  • Can of mixed beans, drained.
  • Sundried tomatoes, sliced.
  • Fresh parsley or whatever herbs you have, torn/shredded/chopped/cut/rubbed/whatever.
  • Olive oil and a splash of balsamic, (Nathan says S&P I wonder if he meant Lea and Perrins? I used lemon juice).

Serve with nice bread and mixed leaves.

Nathan adds some ground corriander and chilli flakes or whatever I have around.

This really was really, really quick, really really easy, and pretty tasty too πŸ™‚

The “windowpane test”

Savoury Seasonings has a really useful post on What most bread recipes assume you already know the windowpane test is something I did not know and really useful.

To check if dough is kneaded enough see if you can stretch it to make a “windowpane” before it tears, if not knead some more!

(Unless you cheat and use Nathan’s no-knead recipe of course πŸ˜‰

Frying onions (tip learned late)

These fried onions would be nice as a garnish to steak, but have been cooked to fast to really caramelise, the aim is no burnt bits, but a mellow yellow all through (photo by Laurel Fan)

Writing up the African bean recipe below reminded me how late in life I learned to fry onions. I apologise to everyone whose mother or school taught them this, mine didn’t πŸ™ So I read about “frying onions” and assumed that “fry” means hot oil, usually within reason the hotter the better. Result, charred but uncooked onions.

Onions are not usually “fried” whatever we say 1The exception is the deep fried crispy onion and garlic that adds crunch and a flavour explosion to some Asian dishes, they are cooked fast to remove the water, but this is a different process and uses lots of oil. , they are should be slowly simmered with an oil lubricant to stop them sticking to the pan, the trick is to use a low heat and a long time (stirring now and then as you walk through the kitchen) then they’ll caramelise beautifully, adding depth and richness to the flavour as well as softening the onions πŸ™‚

Notes   [ + ]

1. The exception is the deep fried crispy onion and garlic that adds crunch and a flavour explosion to some Asian dishes, they are cooked fast to remove the water, but this is a different process and uses lots of oil.

African Black Eyed Beans

African Black Eyed Beans (no the beans aren't from Africa, just the recipe πŸ˜‰

Last night I tried Lois’ African Black Eyed Beans. 1I did not mean to do two of Lois’ recipes in a row, but that’s what I had in the storecupboard πŸ™‚ Barbara was just back from Tauranga and I had them ready with rice, Barbara did not know it was a competition recipe but said the beans were delicious without prompting πŸ™‚ I adapted the recipe for Repentant Carnivores (rather than Vegans) by cutting the fat, especially the bad fat in the coconut cream, halving this works fine and still tastes deliciously different.

  • 1Β½ cups black-eyed beans. Start these cooking for 30 – 45 minutes.

Make the sauce with:

  • 2 chopped onions SautΓ©d in a little oil until they’re softish.
  • 1 small can tomato paste (or chopped tomatoes but then you will need to “reduce” 2That is boil to remove some of the water. the sauce a bit).
  • Β½ can coconut cream
  • 2 tsp paprika 3I used smoked, it adds a nice depth to the warmth – as I also used less chili.
  • Β½ tsp (or more or less) chili powder
  • Β½ tsp cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Stir together till combined, if necessary reduce to thicken, but if you keep the beans warm in the sauce before serving it will thicken up a bit then.

When the beans are cooked, drain and mix the sauce into them.

Serve with rice. This is would serves 4 as a main meal. 4Lois or Alison reckoned 4-6 but the 6 would all need small appetites or to eat desert as well πŸ˜‰

Lois gave credit to Alison Holst, the beans taste interesting and different as most Westerners are not used to the coconut and bean combination, which worked very well. Once again the recipe risks looking plain, I think (in the Capsicum season at least) some thin Jullienne strips of green Capsicum might lift it… I am sure this dish, especially if it was enhanced by some appropriate (or better still inappropriate) story about the African origin of the recipe, would go down a treat with most children – though definitely reduce the chili (like I did) in that case.

Like the previous two entries I’ve tested this is likely to stay on my regular list, so far it is going to be hard to choose who gets the prize πŸ˜‰

Notes   [ + ]

1. I did not mean to do two of Lois’ recipes in a row, but that’s what I had in the storecupboard πŸ™‚
2. That is boil to remove some of the water.
3. I used smoked, it adds a nice depth to the warmth – as I also used less chili.
4. Lois or Alison reckoned 4-6 but the 6 would all need small appetites or to eat desert as well πŸ˜‰

Mushroom and Barley

Lois' Mushroom Barley Mix - all packed for lunch

After a fortnight of a cold that left me with no enthusiasm for recipe testing πŸ™‚ I have again begun to trial the Great Vegan Recipe Competition entries.

Yesterday I tried Lois’ Mushroom and Barley Mix, and brought the “left overs” in a box for lunch. The recipe is extremely easy, and seems forgiving – I left it simmering with no stirring for an hour and it was still fine!

  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 3-4 cups vege stock or water
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 5-6 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Harissa (or in Lois’ original chilli – I like less chilli and more spices that most Kiwis)

SautΓ© onion, carrot, garlic and spices. Add barley, mushrooms, soy sauce and stock. (I’d now keep half the mushrooms to add later with the chickpeas – if you are using soaked, dried but uncooked chickpeas add them now.)

Leave to simmer happily for about 3/4 hour, until the barley is soft but chewy. Check occasionally to ensure there’s sufficient liquid. I found with precooked chick peas that 3 cups was plenty, but if cooking the chick peas then I expect the extra cup is needed. Add the sundried tomatoes (or other veges like Lois’ capsicum [too expensive at this time of year]) for colour before serving.

This is savoury, convenient one pot, and one serving. It works well to warm up next day for lunch. I would also add some chopped fresh herbs at the end to add more colour as garnish and to add a little zing to the flavours which are otherwise savoury but almost bland. (It was the same reasoning, as well as what was in the fridge, that led me to use sundried tomatoes.)

Baked Potatoes

You can usually avoid this by stabbing the potato viciously with a thin blade before cooking (Photo by Robert S. Donovan)

Lifehacker prompted this post, they linked to a page of Kitchen Myths. Most of the list was pretty boring, stuff I either knew (that microwaving does not cause food to become radioactive πŸ˜‰ or was not really interested in (like whether “real chili” could contain beans) there was one I’d qualify. The author says:

The microwave oven certainly has many legitimate uses, but baking potatoes (or anything else) is not one of them. Sure, you can cook a whole potato in the microwave, but what you get is a steamed potato. The crispy skin and fluffy interior of the genuine baked potato require a long cooking in dry heat.

This is true, but misses the point. What you do is almost cook the potatoes in the microwave, then oil and salt the skins and finish them off in the oven. A saving in fuel as the oven is on much less long and time.

Baked potatoes taste great, loved by most children and are a great opportunity for creative stretching. Think baked potato with olive oil or peanut oil and a little tomato and bacon, for example.

But what suggestions do you have for fully vegan fillings?

Green lentils and sausage

Cooked green lentils (photo by Maggie Hoffman) when you add the oil they'll glisten scrunptiously, the sausage is icing on the cake πŸ˜‰

This recipe is NOT Vegan, except Vegans can easily adapt it by removing the sausage and adding a little more oil and salt.This is simpler than the public as imagined by a politician, and tastier than even you could imagine (just use plenty of good oil and real ground or flaky salt added just before eating)

  • Green lentils 1/2 cup per person (boiled gently till just soft)
  • Splash or three of nice olive oil
  • Several grinds of sea salt
  • a little thinly sliced sausage (Chorizo is good, but I prefer the thin ones that taste a bit like salami)

Serve with mashed potatoes.

For myself I often leave the sausage out, but it used to help tame the family carnivores πŸ˜‰ and does add a nice contrast.

Stretching and bending

Pasta Sauce by Tim Patterson

I’ve had a stinking cold for the last week, so I haven’t been making progress with the competition recipes (another chance to persuade your cousin Jo[e] to add their best effort) today I am hoping I’m feeling better, so to encourage that hope I was going to look at which recipe to try next. I got waylaid, by my post Two lessons in meat avoidance, that set me thinking about ways to reduce the meat (dairy or egg) component in “regular” meals, as a contribution to the overall goal of a more modest lifestyle.Here is a first list of tips:

  • use a little cheese to add meatiness to a vege dish (like the Parmesan in my roast veges)
  • add beans to the meat in a stew or casserole, in winter we love slow cooker casseroles, they cook beans brilliantly as well as meat – when an RC is cooking for the un-repentant sort use less meat and replace half with beans or lentils
  • make up the pasta sauce with lentils instead of, or more sneakily with (as above, maybe 1/2 and 1/2) mince
  • use a strong tasting savoury meat in small quantities – bacon (I know bacon in piles makes any food except icecream better) even a little will make a hot or cold salad taste meaty

I’m sure several of you have good ideas or examples too, so please chip in…. It is (after all) all about sharing πŸ™‚

Carrot and Cashew Soup

Nearly Vegan Carrot and Cashew Soup

Heather’s competition recipe (from Alison Holst)

  • 500g carrots
  • 2 small onions
  • Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Curry powder and some cumin seeds
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup toasted cashews

Chop onions and begin to cook in the saucepan with the oil (soften rather than caramelise them), add curry powder and cumin. Then chop and add carrots, add the stock and simmer till the carrots are tender. In a blender process the toasted cashews to the consistency of ground almonds (can be toasted under a grill with 1/2tsp oil). [Or if you are Tim just add them before the final few wizzes in the food processor.] Drain cooked carrots and onion and put into blender with ground nuts. Process adding stock as required to get the desired consistency.[Again I just slopped the lot into the food processor, and added the nuts – see above – just before finishing, to keep a bit of crunch.]

Taste & adjust seasoning. Reheat to serve.

Experience (the Voice of): Tasty, filling and robust! Yum, this will certainly be added to the staple soups for something quick, easy, tasty and filling for when we have a crowd for lunch. I’m going to experiment a bit more, next time the Cumin will definitely be ground not seeds (they went all fibrous when processed πŸ™ and I’ll reduce the curry powder a bit further and add Coriander leaves as garnish instead of the Yogurt in the photo making it really Vegan again πŸ™‚

BTW: If you try a competition recipe and like it please either say so in the comments on this blog post, or click the “Like on Facebook” button, that way I can factor your preferences into the result. Voting more than once will only count as one, even for your own entry πŸ˜‰