I don't know about you, but I have a fair bit of angst when it comes to working week lunches. Of course if you happen to be one of those super-organised, super-human people who prepares their lunch the day before, you probably don't understand my quandry. I am not one of those people. Getting lunch together is usually that thing that happens in the five minutes between getting dressed and rushing out the door, and usually with my toothbrush hanging out of the corner of my mouth while I'm doing it. Not a pretty picture.
There's no doubt that a sandwich is the ultimate transportable meal, but I try not to eat too much bread, and in all honesty no sandwich really tastes as good after four or five hours at the bottom of your lunch bag as it does when freshly made. Last night's leftovers too are great lunchtime fodder, but without the facilities to reheat anything at my workplace, I find I'm less than enthusiastic about the previous night's cold mac 'n' cheese.
Most weeks in our house we make a big pot of soup, and occasionally I have time in the morning to reheat some to take to work in a thermos. Sometimes I will make a big batch of hummus and take that along to work with a bag of assorted vegetables, and that will provide me with lunch for three or four days. But more often that not, I will make do with just grabbing a couple of pieces of fruit or an avocado out of the bowl as I rush out the door.
A salad is great for lunch, but a salad which is made the night before is seldom a thing of glory, and who has time in the morning for chopping ingredients, putting them in separate little containers, mixing a dressing, etc?! Definitely not this girl.
And now, that clever Nigel Slater has got me out of a pickle with some inspiration which will see me enjoying delicious work-day lunches for at least the next week. You see, this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs our theme is "In Quite A Pickle", making our own pickles or a dish using pickled ingredients.
Looking through my Nigel Slater cookbooks, I couldn't find anything that was quite right or which used ingredients that are in season here right now, but online I found Nigel's recipe for Salmon Tartare with Quick Pickled Cauliflower.
With a whole head of cauliflower sitting in my veggie drawer and needing to be used up, this definitely piqued my interest, and although I wasn't considering making the salmon tartare today, it got me thinking. For a start, why just stop at cauliflower? I had other vegetables on hand that surely could get the quick pickling treatment too ... radishes, carrots, beetroot, and if these were going to be a good accompaniment to salmon, then why not with a variety of smoked fish?
Seriously, these could not be simpler to make. About 20 minutes of work this afternoon, and I now have four jars of assorted pickled vegetables with which I can stock the fridge at work. I'll take along a couple of pieces of smoked mackerel as well, a bag of salad leaves and a packet of crackers, and I have a whole week's worth of sensational (and healthy) lunches to look forward to.
Quick Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Nigel Slater
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
You don't need to be too concerned about quantities here - just use what you have
1x small cauliflower, cut into small florets
4 to 5x radishes
1 to 2x beetroot, depending on size
dill or caraway seeds
2-1/2 cups cider vinegar
2-1/2 cups water
200g (7 oz) sugar
4x washed & sterilised jars
Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Add cauliflower, and cook for about 5 minutes, until just barely tender, but still crisp. Drain and refresh in cold water. Pack the cauliflower into one jar, sprinkling coriander seeds over each layer as you go.
Using a vegetable peeler, cut the carrot into long, thin ribbons, and pack into another jar, sprinkling caraway seeds over each layer as you go.
Cut radish into rings as thinly as you possibly can - a mandoline is ideal. Layer in a jar with fennel seeds.
Cut beetroot in half, and then into thin slices - again a mandoline is ideal. Layer in a jar with dill or caraway seeds.
Put vinegar, water and sugar in a small pot, and set over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour over the bottled vegetables.
Leave to cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge. Allow to stand, in the fridge, at least four hours before using. After a few hours in the fridge, they are really crispy, and beginning to take on the flavours from the spices they've been packed with. If you can bear to wait till the next day, even better.
This is a quick pickle, so don't expect a long-term preserve, but they should keep a good week or two in the fridge.
Enjoy - I know I can hardly wait for lunch time tomorrow to come around.
If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...
I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.