As does much of the nation, I love the Hairy Bikers and their budget-conscious yet quality-focused approach to food, as well as their witty banter and general horsing around on TV. I’ve also very much enjoyed their recently-concluded series, Everyday Gourmets, thanks to its usual blend of mouthwatering recipes, human interest, and humour.
However, episode 5, entitled Luxury Lunches, riled me a little. Why? Because it barely took account of ordinary people’s lunch hours. Even though the recipes looked lovely, for the vast majority there was no way of preparing them and transporting them adequately or having enough time to eat them (in the sense that you could probably shovel them down, but you wouldn’t have time to enjoy them).
My lunch hour usually looks like this. I get out of my lesson at 1.00pm if I’m lucky (I’m a teacher). By ‘unlucky’, I mean I’ve had to keep a student behind, ask a colleague a vital question that cannot wait, or chase up some necessary paperwork. That, or you get embroiled in various odds and sods, such as having to tidy your box when everything’s just fallen out of it (again). So realistically by the time I hit the kitchen it’s between 1.05pm and 1.20pm. You then have to wait your turn to use the kettle or microwave, taking into account the fact that you can’t use both microwaves AND the kettle simultaneously in my workplace unless you want to blow the fuse box. Then you have to actually sit down and eat your lunch once you’ve had a chance to heat it up (cold lunches don’t do it for me, sorry), bearing in mind that you only have until 1.45pm in my workplace. Very occasionally I buy lunch, which means the time spent standing around to heat up lunch is often replaced by the time it takes to go out and fetch it. So at best you have about 40 minutes to eat lunch, and at worst you have about 25 (I have some colleagues who skip lunch altogether, but I’m not that much of a martyr), including waiting/heating/food-buying time.
So the hirsute duo’s suggestions of, among other dishes, spiced fillet of lamb in filo pastry, pan-fried pheasant breast, and salmon gravlax with gin, are just not that practical for lunchtime. Dishes that require such thought and skill deserve to be savoured, which you can’t necessarily do in 25 minutes. Plus, they are usually going to depreciate in quality if eaten the day after they’ve been made (and after a spell in the microwave to boot).
However, we all want inspiring lunches, and while I feel that the bikers could have made more of this in their show, I decided to take a look and see if any of the recipes from the Luxury Lunches episodes (and a few others from the series) could be adapted in some way for workplace lunching. Happily, some solutions were found! Try them out for yourself:
- The gazpacho hispaniola can be stored in a flask once cooled and served directly from there – all you need to do is bring your own bowl. With no reheating required, it’s perfect for summer. Bring a ziplock bag of croutons as well if you like.
- The bikers’ summer berry cheesecake can still be enjoyed as a dessert at work: just make mini versions in small ramekins, and ditch the sugar nest that you see in the picture. Cheesecakes are, of course, perfectly adapted for making in advance, and are portable too. Put foil over the top of the ramekin to protect it during your commute – or, even better, a shower cap swiped from your latest hotel stay! (Nobody actually uses shower caps for showering, do they?!)
- Also perfectly designed for the purpose of work lunch is their Eastern spiced shepherd’s pie: you’ve got all your food groups in one box, and shepherd’s pie is one of those dishes that doesn’t suffer at all from being reheated.
- Use any leftover salmon gravlax with gin to make a gourmet sandwich with a mini baguette. Dress with lemon juice, black pepper, fresh coriander and fresh dill, plus green salad leaves, and you’ll have a blinding sandwich that all your workmates will envy.
- Make the pork, leek and apricot pie for Sunday tea, and there’s nothing to stop you taking leftovers into work for your lunch on Monday. Instead of serving the jelly on the side as the bikers do, cut down the meat mixture inside the pie and pour the jelly into the extra space as you would with a normal pie. This will add extra portability. You can even reheat this one if you like 🙂
- Those supermarket rice sachets are great for jazzing up leftovers – basics ones are fine if you’re tightening your purse strings. The hairy bikers’ beef chilli with bitter chocolate, spiced pulled pork, and Thai vegetable curry can all be popped into a box and then mixed with a heated rice sachet later. All should be eaten hot, which suits me perfectly.
- For something even easier, the lemon and thyme pork schnitzel can just be boxed up with the bikers’ potato salad and reheated all in one shot.
- And for the easiest lunches of all, the bikers have made a great selection of finger food in this series. A slice of roast vegetable and goat cheese tart, or a serving of gyoza or kofte, can be eaten warm or cold and don’t even require cutlery.
I appreciate that the bikers’ food looks even better on a plate. However, I now feel even more encouraged to know that from this series alone, there are plenty of their recipes that will taste just as good from Tupperware, and add a little luxury to my lunchtime.