Wednesday 21 March 2018

Frugal healthy lunches

All we are saying is give peas (and kale and lentils and nuts...) a chance in 2016 - the year of the pulse, writes Katy McGuinness

By now, hopefully, whatever ridiculous diets and juice cleanses that we embarked on at the start of the year have fallen by the wayside and we are ready to embrace a more sustainable regimen of eating better, most of the time.

2016 has been designated the year of the pulse by the World Health Organisation, so now is as good a time as any to embrace your inner vegetarian and learn to love lentils. The lentil salad recipe here is cheap, cheerful and very versatile - use it as a basis for lunches for a week, adding whatever leaves, vegetables, cheese, toasted nuts or leftover meat or chicken you have to hand to vary things a bit.

The frittata recipe is infinitely flexible and best eaten warm or at room temperature. Use whatever seasonal greens are to hand; kale is very good here and both super-virtuous and super-cheap.

Granola bars are a terrific addition to lunchboxes for children and grown-ups alike, but many of the commercial versions available are not as healthy as we think, full of sugar and other nasties, and the properly healthy ones can be expensive.

The recipe here is one that you can adapt to suit your taste; it's really worth spending half an hour at the weekend knocking up a batch that will see you through the week ahead.

Don't be put off by the list of ingredients here, chances are that you already have a good number of them in the cupboard and the quantities here will be enough to make some of the recipes several times over, the bars in particular. The initial investment will last a while.

Curried Lentil Salad

Serves 6

500g Puy lentils

1 red onion, finely chopped

150g dried fruit (cranberries, or apricots perhaps), finely chopped

4 tbsp capers, finely chopped

For the dressing:

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp curry powder

Rinse the lentils and place in a saucepan with plenty of cold water.

Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until tender but not disintegrating. This will take about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Drain the lentils and rinse under cold water.

While the lentils are still warm, combine all the ingredients with the dressing.

Oat Coconut, Nut  and Seed Bars

Makes 12 bars

60g pecans, toasted and chopped

150g rolled oats

30g rice crisp cereal

70g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp)

15g unsweetened desiccated coconut

2 tablespoons chia seeds

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch fine sea salt

140ml brown rice syrup

60g roasted almond or peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Line a 23cm square cake tin with two pieces of parchment paper, one going each way. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine the syrup and nut butter until melted, then add the vanilla.

Add the syrup mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Put the mixture into the tin and press down evenly. Put the tin in the freezer for about 10 minutes or until firm.

Slice into 12 even bars and store in a tin in the fridge or wrap individually in foil or clingfilm. These will keep for two weeks in the fridge or a month in the freezer.

Green Frittata

Makes 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 small onions, chopped

125g baby potatoes, unpeeled, sliced very fine

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

125g seasonal greens (broccoli, kale, spinach) cut into 1cm pieces

5 large eggs, beaten

Pinch chilli flakes

30g cheese, grated or crumbled (goat's or feta cheese is good, but use whatever you have to hand)

Heat the oil in a heavy, ovenproof frying pan and cook the onions and potatoes with a pinch of salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked through, which will take about five minutes. Add the vegetables and cook for another minute or two until softened. Set half of this mixture to one side.

Add a pinch of chilli flakes to the eggs, season them with salt and pepper and add to the frying pan. Cook over low/medium heat until the eggs are just set, which will take about five minutes. Top with the reserved vegetables and the cheese.

Place under the grill for a couple of minutes until the top puffs up. Use a spatula to loosen the sides and remove the frittata from the pan.

Irish Independent

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