Lunch inspiration for the dreaded first week back.

Now that Christmas is over, it’s the ideal time to start making plans for 2016. After an over-indulgent Christmas period, it’s inevitable that the new year, for many of us, will start with plans for healthier living. If you’re feeling sluggish and regretting the mountain of mince pies you devoured, it can be difficult to face returning to the office where you’ll no doubt be sitting down for hours at a time. An energising, healthy lunch can be just the trick to get you back into the swing of things.

Here are some great options to set you up for your first week back at work:

Quinoa, feta and broad bean salad

Mx3-quinoa

Jamie Oliver knows a thing or two about healthy, wholesome food – you don’t become known as the saviour of school dinners for nothing. This tasty salad is packed full of protein, thanks to the quinoa, and will give your meal deal-eating colleagues serious food envy.

Ingredients:

  • 3 corn cobs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch of fresh coriander, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped, a few leaves reserved to garnish
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2-3 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 300g fresh broad beans, shelled, or 200g frozen
  • 220g quinoa
  • 3 limes, the zest and juice of
  • 200g feta
  • hot chilli sauce, to season (optional)

Method:

Slice the corn kernels off the cobs using a sharp knife, then transfer them to a blender. Blitz them with 125ml water until you have a loose paste.

Pour a dash of oil into a medium-sized pan and fry the onion and coriander stalks over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until softened. Add the cumin, garlic and chillies and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the corn paste to the pan and cook for another 5-10 minutes, making sure it’s simmering gently. Add seasoning and pour the mixture into a bowl to set aside for now.

Blanch the beans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.

Cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil while it’s still hot. Squeeze over the lime juice and add in the zest. Add in the cooled broad beans and toss. When it’s cooked, chop up the coriander leaves and add them in, as well as the corn mixture. Put all of this into a large bowl or Tupperware container now (whatever you’ll be serving it from if you’re making a big batch for multiple lunches).

Put the whole block of feta into a small frying pan, drizzle with olive oil and add a splash of chilli sauce (if you want to). Bring to the boil, then continue to cook it over a high heat until the cheese is golden. Turn it over and cook for a few minutes on the other side. Break up the feta and add it on top of the tasty salad with any of the leftover dressing from the pan. Scatter the rest of the coriander leaves over the top.

Chicken congee

Mx3-chicken congee

This traditional Chinese recipe is perfect for those who have overindulged during the Christmas period, as it helps keep your energy up and is extremely soothing – if you ever have a delicate stomach, this is the dish for you.

The cooking process is a bit drawn-out, so this is a great recipe to get to grips with on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The original recipe takes about six hours, but this is an adapted, shorter version taken from Neal’s Yard Healing Foods. It will still take over three hours, but once it’s bubbling away you can stick on a film and relax.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 1 organic free-range chicken, about 1.5kg (3lb 3oz)
  • 200g long-grain or basmati brown rice
  • 5cm piece of fresh root ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seed oil (toasted sesame seed oil is fine)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped spring onions, to garnish
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves, to garnish

Method:

Put the chicken, rice and ginger in a large saucepan (with a lid) and add enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer for 2-3 hours, until the chicken is falling off the bones and the rice is soft. As it’s cooking, check it occasionally to make sure that it’s not boiling dry – add more water if necessary. You’re looking for a thick soup-like consistency.

Remove the pan from the heat and pop the chicken on a plate. Remove the skin and bones. Shred the chicken and put it back into the pan with the tamari soy sauce, sesame oil, sea salt and black pepper. Stir it well.

Your congee is now good to go. Serve it up into different Tupperware containers, and garnish with the spring onions and coriander leaves. You’ll be feeling healthy and nourished in no time.

Spicy avocado wraps

Mx3-spicy avocado wraps

Sometimes you just want lunch to be easy, quick and tasty. This is the perfect recipe for a no-fuss tasty lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 150g Quorn chicken pieces/ chicken for a non-veggie option
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 2 seeded wraps
  • 1 avocado, halved and stoned
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • a few sprigs of coriander

Method:

Mix the chicken/ chicken-style pieces with lime juice, chilli powder and garlic. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan then fry the chicken until light brown (if you’re using real chicken, make sure you check that it’s cooked all the way through). Warm the wraps as per the packet instructions. Add the sliced pepper to the pan for a few minutes, until slightly softened. Squash half an avocado onto each wrap, then pile the chicken and pepper on top. Add a sprinkling of coriander, then roll up the wraps and cut them in half.

Hannah Burton

Hannah Burton

Hannah is a keen foodie with a passion for travel, books and history. She regularly creeps out the office with her weird crushes (Mr Tumnis and Thomas Cromwell, among others) and is a lover of fun facts, punnery and quizzes.

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