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 🙁 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?

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 🙁 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 🙂

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.

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 😉 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 😉

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 😉 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 🙂

Stockpot (tip from a real chef)

Vegetable wastage steamily making savoury stock

I’ve just followed the advice of my son (Nathan, the chef) and put all the offcuts from the roast veges for lunch into a pot with water to make stock. Cheap (well effectively free), easy (as easy as putting them in the bin or compost, though there will be another step as they end up there later) and he says tasty.

It will also help to make up for the stock I will be making from chicken carcasses less often from now on…


PS: Nathan warns in the comments below to avoid the leaves of the celery. He’s right 🙂  as I found out the hard way. Before I saw the commment I used the leaves, result delicious stock, except too bitter to use 🙁