5 TIPS FOR A BETTER 'OFFICE' LUNCH

How to turn lunch into the best part of your work-from-home day in five easy steps – one of which is to create a Special Lunch Playlist.

Is it lunchtime yet? When you work from home, having a decent break in the middle of the day (or the middle of the afternoon, whatever) is something to look forward to. But the whole thing can get out of hand if you’re torn in too many directions all day, so let’s make this delicious but controllable.

1/ CREATE A ROUTINE

The hardest part of the ‘whats-for-lunch’ syndrome is not actually making it, it’s making the decision. So many options, so little interest in spending all morning fixing lunch.

First, narrow down the options to things that everybody in the household likes – especially if there’s only you in the household. 

Then make your own rules: Monday could be meat-free, Tuesdays be toasties, Wednesdays be soups, Thursdays be something eggy, like a quiche or baked shakshouka, and Fridays could be take-away from the nearest café.

Or Mondays are Asian, Tuesdays are Greek, Wednesdays are Vietnamese, Thursdays are Mexican, and Fridays are (dangerously) put to the family vote, with kids getting two votes to parents’ one.  Whatever the result, knowing it’s coming up will help you shop, plan ahead, and have what you need before you need it.

2/ BREAK THE ROUTINE

Once you’re all rolling along comfortably, then bust it wide open. If you always have sandwiches, pivot to a salad. If you always eat inside, take it outside. If you’re a bread person, swap out sourdough for pita bread, tortillas (warmed for 20 seconds in a dry pan), or roti.

There are going to be days when you just have to roll with the punches and make do. Let me state that there is NOTHING wrong with a bowl of cereal for lunch, unless perhaps you had one for breakfast and intend to have one for dinner, in which case it is a cry for help.

3/ I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO MENTION LEFTOVERS, IT’S THAT OBVIOUS.

Okay, I am. Smash that chicken schnitzel into a sandwich with coleslaw. Chop up those roast vegetables, fry in a little curry-powdered oil, then break in an egg or two and toss until set. Rice, of course, see last week’s post. Wrap cooked rice vermicelli noodles into rice paper rolls with a crunchy salad and roast chicken.

Or quick-pickle some carrot and cucumber and slap it into a bread roll with grilled pork belly or chicken, coriander, green leaves, and Sriracha chilli, banh mi style – even better if there’s some chicken liver pate hanging around.

Or toss cooked pasta with canned tuna, lemon and olives. Chop up cooked prawns, toss in mayo lightened with yoghurt and lots of dill, and squish into small cocktail rolls. Put everything into a salad sandwich (except alfalfa, there’s a law against that), or better still, create a Salad Bar to which everyone can come when they’re ready and throw together their own lunch. Too easy.

4/ EGGS! CHEESE! CANNED THINGS!

Eggs go with everything. What’s a Nicoise salad without an egg? My recipe here. What’s Swedish crispbread and smoked salmon without an egg? Does bacon even need to exist without eggs?

You’ll be needing three staple cheeses.  Parmigiano or grana Padano for pasta salads and Caesar salads; some sort of bitey, tasty, cheddary cheese for sandwiches and toasties, and a random, weekly-rotating, rogue entry that could be haloumi, mozzarella, feta, ricotta or gorgonzola dolcelatte.

As for cans - tuna, white beans, anchovies. Throw in half a finely sliced red onion, olive oil and red wine vinegar and there’s a lunch right there. Canned chickpeas are also your friend and will never let you down. Whiz into hummus with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and cumin, and build your lunch on top – torn leaves, roasted veg, left-over roast chicken, flatbread. Hummus makes everything better.

And if you have all three - eggs, cheese and canned things, then get some crispbread and go all Scandi with it.

5/ MAKE A SPECIAL LUNCH PLAYLIST

Why just eat, when you can do it to the beat? The right music will lift you, transport you and intrigue you as much as good food will.

This week, I’m listening to Charlie Watts (the jazz with the Danish Radio Big Band, not the Stones stuff), and Lorde’s trippy new album, and NapCaviar, Hrishikesh Hirway’s playlist of ‘songs to daydream by’.

Why Hrishikesh Hirway? Because his Song Exploder podcast has evolved into one of the best shows on Netflix. Because he did a podcast called Home Cooking with the wonderful Samin Nosrat (author of Salt Fat Acid Heat) that’s so, so funny. And because he once told everyone to save all the broken bits at the bottom of a bag of chips to throw on top of their office lunches of left-over rice and lentils, quinoa or beans. Damn, that’s good.


Thanks for reading! (And listening!) And liking, commenting, subscribing, or sharing.

I would like to acknowledge that I live, work and play on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and wish to pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.