Friday, 14 January 2011

Adventures in the lunchbox department

After the start of the new year gave me more opportunities for whinging and whining about the standard of grub I can get during a working day, I finally hauled myself off my proverbial and did something about it this week. In fact, I did two things.

Frankly, I’m a bit bored with Pret. And I’ve made more than a few complaints here about what’s available in the ‘deli’ at work.

But back in December, a survey came winging it’s way to all of us in the building, asking our opinions on the catering.

I leant back in my chair, arms outstretched, hands linked, palms facing out, and prepared to respond.

Were I the sort of person who was lured into conspiracy theories, I would question whether what happened next was a pure accident.

I could not access the survey. It turned out that nobody else in our department could manage it either. Ah yes: someone forgets, yet again, that not everyone in the building is using PCs.

A colleague emailed the IT desk, explaining that we all having an issue. By the time she returned from her Christmas holiday, there had still been no reply.

She tried again – and at this stage, I also fired off an email.

Eventually, the technical issues were sorted out. Earlier this week, I was able to lean back in my chair, arms outstretched, hands linked, palms facing out, and prepare to respond.

One of the questions was whether we’d all eat in more often if they had a specific ‘healthy option’. Ah. So your other dishes are unhealthy, then?

Who decides what is “healthy” or not? And why patronise adults by assuming they’re not intelligent or educated enough to know what constitutes healthy food without a great signpost gesturing at it?

More generally: please stop trying to make over-complex dishes. That day, as it happens, there was a boeuf bourguignon on the menu.

As The Other Half (generally less cynical than me when it comes to the deli’s food) said: “I wonder how much red wine it’s seen – never mind how much Burgundy?”

I didn’t attempt to find out. And nor did I try it, a day later, when it turned up as the day’s star jacket potato filling.

There is nothing wrong with simple food – why not make something like pasta with a decent tomato sauce, for instance?

And I did mention that, when we move to the new building, the catering staff need better equipment: a single, solitary hob in a professional kitchen is ridiculous.

Anyway, I wait to see what their response is. But in the meantime, I have actually made my own packed lunches this week.

After Sunday’s roast chicken, I chucked some meat into a container, added some green olives stuffed with anchovies, a chopped, roasted red pepper and some couscous, and then a bit of seasoning, some oil and a little raspberry vinegar. That did for Monday and Tuesday.

Okay, but far from perfect. It was all a bit too dry and a bit too dominated by the bit too dry couscous.

On Wednesday, business took me away from the office and I didn’t have to cater for myself.

But on Wednesday night, I had a little mull. This time, I peeled and boiled three medium potatoes, then drained them well.

By this time, balanced rather precariously on my lunch box, was a just-open tin of sardines, with the fishy-flavoured olive oil dripping out. Once that had finished and the potatoes were fully drained, they went into the box and were gently tossed in the oil. Being floury ones, they broke up quite nicely, absorbing the oil.

I drained some pickled baby beets, cut them up roughly and added those, together with some more of the green olives with anchovies. The sardines went on top. Some seasoning and a bit more virgin oil finished the job.

Now it doesn't look very impressive, but it's been seriously tasty. And if we were to consider such things, it's pretty healthy too and not exactly expensive.

As it happens, I have an online order in for bulk stuff from Waitrose, which will arrive this weekend. It now includes loads of tins of sardines, including ones with chili and garlic olive oil. Yummy.

And I finally got around to finding out what the difference between waxy and floury potatoes is. You'd be shocked at the bloody great swathes of total culinary ignorance I have.

King Edwards, like the ones I used for my lunches, get a six on the floury scale, according to the Potato Council, which is high. As such, they're a great all-rounder and particularly good for chips, daupinoise potatoes, roasties and mash. Which makes sense when you do what I hadn't done previously – and think about it.

Waxy potatoes are idea for salads. So I've also ordered some Charlottes, which will be ideal for future lunch box adventures next week.

And it wasn't really difficult at all.

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