Wednesday 16 May 2012

Dining al desko

It happens to all of us. End of the month budgetary restrictions (even at the beginning of the month), a busy month at work or self-imposed social exclusion (aka a ‘Greta Garbo moment' (“I want to be alone”)), we all, sometimes, have occasion to have lunch in the office. Hopefully your place of work has a somewhere you can bring food in and spend some time away from your computer if even for 15 minutes.

There are lots of options for dining al desko (or al officio if you have a desk all to yourself) without resorting to the local (and expensive) sandwich shop. Of course, the easiest option is to cook a little extra the night before and take the left overs into work the next day. The next easiest option is to cook a little extra the night before and use up the leftovers in a different way, like leftover roast in salads or sandwiches.

The third option is to soup. Soup is “soup-er” simple and cost-effective, and it hates waste. Also, it’s great for the waist – as long as you don’t add cartons of cream. I make a batch of soup most weekends and freeze it in portions to use over the following week. And, you can use whatever you have around the kitchen, including sad-looking or leftover vegetables. It’s also a great way to get essential vitamins and minerals and to introduce pulses to your diet (which are full of things which are great for you, like vegetable protein and fibre). All you need is a pot and a stick blender (which cost about €20) if you don’t have a jug blender. Freezing your soup first makes it easier to transport too. 

These are some of the regulars that I whip up, which may inspire you.
Pea soup (without the croutons, and you can use low fat cream or natural yogurt)
Italian vegetable soup (you don’t even need a blender for this one)
Mulligatawny soup (use whatever veg you have around, a sprinkle of curry powder and add a cupful of rice)
Tuscan bean soup (I usually add a packet of lardons…)

Cauliflower cheese soup
Make cauliflower n cheese with your next roast. With the leftovers (make double if you have to), add sauce and all to a pot with some water and simmer for a bit (until the veg is tender). Blend with your stick blender or in a liquidiser and add more water until you have a soupy consistency. You could also add some toasted cumin seeds for extra warmth.  

Courgette soup
Chop one onion, one clove of garlic and two courgettes roughly and sweat over a medium heat in a small knob of butter for five minutes. Add about one and a half litres of water, a stock cube and salt and pepper and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Blend until smooth.

101 Tomato soups
Chop an onion (red, white, whatever you have in the veggie basket) and a bit of garlic and sweat in a bit of butter for five minutes over a medium heat. Add a tin of tomatoes and another two tins of water, a stock cube and some salt and pepper.
From this you can add a chopped up pepper, or a range of other vegetables, a tin of drained lentils, a cupful of quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”. It’s a source of protein, magnesium (great for de-stressing as it relaxes the blood vessels), fibre and copper) or bulgur wheat (an anti-inflammatory; it also contains protein and fibre). Spice it up with basil and chunks of mozzarella when it’s done cooking or while its cooking add whatever spices are hiding at the back of the cupboard, like cumin, coriander seeds, chilli, paprika, turmeric, bay, oregano, thyme, rosemary… When you’ve got a good tasting soup, blend it up and freeze.

Domini Kemp had an article in the Irish Times recently with more desk-friendly recipes. You can find them here.

I did a post last year on breakfast muffins. You can get it here.

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