Lunch suffers from classic middle child syndrome. Everyone is always carrying on about breakfast or dinner, or worse brunch. In between all of this, lunch is often skipped, allowing us to recover from the previous meal or make room for the next. To me, this is the saddest thing of all, because lunch has the potential to be the best meal of the day.
My obsession with lunch really blossomed in primary school. I had a lunch box with the letters of my name embossed on it. I demanded the larger, boxier lunch box, as I suspected owning this would mean I would be the recipient of more food. And? I was right.
In prep I was a salad sandwich kind of girl, by grade one I demanded the addition of sun dried tomatoes to my lunchtime staple (don’t judge, it was the height of the 1990s gourmet revival). By the time grade two rolled around I was deep in the throes of lunchtime experimentation, even adding leftover meatballs to ciabatta rolls. (The key was to ensure that the bread was perfectly soggy with sauce, while the exterior crust remained crunchy.)
Now in adult life, the lunchtime ritual continues. Our office is based in Collingwood, where there is no shortage of lunch options. However, only very rarely will I hit the pavement to spend my grown up tuckshop money. I am one of those nerds who still brings their lunch to work pretty much everyday. To me, making my daily lunch is one of life’s small pleasures, and the premise behind this month’s Tasty Tuesday series.
I like to call this first recipe my ‘Start-of-the-week-full-of-optimism-salad’. Translation: Prepare this on a Sunday night when the fridge is full, and 60 Minutes is on in the background.
I roast the cauliflower on a Sunday night, so when I wake up bedraggled on a Monday morning it is ready to go. I then take the accompanying ingredients to work and stockpile the fridge for the next few days.
This salad is really easy to make and really good looking. If you take a strategically cropped Instagram snap of it on your desk, people might think you’re the type of sophisticated person who spend $20 on micro-herb salads, when in truth you cobbled it together in the pocket-sized work kitchen.
INGREDIENTS (Makes 3 serves)
Mixed leafy greens (I like to use rocket and swiss chard)
1 can of lentils
1/2 Spanish onion
2 generous handfuls of slivered almonds
2 generous handful of sultanas
1 pomegranate (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. This is especially great if you live in a small apartment (like me), as the oven doubles a heater.
Chop your cauliflower into medium sized florets (remember they shrink in the oven). Generously coat the base of a roasting tray with olive oil, then pop in cauliflower and season with salt, pepper, a generous sprinkle of paprika and another drizzle of olive oil. Shake around in the tray so that cauliflower is evenly coated. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until cauliflower is still a little firm but starting to turn golden.
While the cauliflower is roasting, in a dry pan lightly toast some slithered almonds. Allow to cool, then put in a small Tupperware container with sultanas. Shake container around like a maraca. Voila, you have just created a gourmet salad topping that will last you a week. (Note: this also tastes excellent atop yoghurt for a 3pm office snack.)
Monday morning. Alarm rings. Hit snooze. Alarm rings again. Hit snooze. Repeat cycle another three times before waking up.
Pack your roasted cauliflower, almond and sultana mix, and the rest of the salad ingredients into a bourgeois tote bag that says ‘I get all of my style cues from successful middle aged women in Nora Ephron movies’. Go to work.
Wait for your internal alarm clock to chime at 12.30pm. This usually sounds vaguely like a stomach rumbling from beneath your desk. Avoid eye with office colleagues and pretend it wasn’t your body that just made that seriously awkward noise in a seriously quiet office.
It’s lunch time. Now we prep the salad. Take a deep breath and channel your inner Ottolenghi in the confines of the pocket-sized work kitchen.
In a large bowl, throw in a handful or two of mixed greens, a generous serving of your pre-roasted cauliflower, a handful of your sultana and almond mix, 2 tablespoons of rinsed canned lentils, some pomegranate seeds, and thinly sliced Spanish onion (as much as you prefer, dependent on your accessibility to mints post lunch).
Gently toss the salad. This counts as daily meditation if you do it right.
Let’s dress the salad. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon (you could do a quarter if you prefer), salt and cracked black pepper. Finish off with a pinch of sumac.
People say you don’t make friends with salad, which is a total lie, because on Mondays I am the most popular girl in the office.