Lunch on the hoof, even in the centre of London, often makes me entirely sad.
You’re either forking out for a limp bit of lettuce, reluctantly accompanied by a sad helping of protein with an appetising grey tinge, or else paying a fiver for a soggy beige sandwich that’s going to mess with your blood sugars and make you feel entirely crap about your life choices.
I love making exciting lunches when I’ve got some time the night before (read: haven’t stumbled in at 10.30 after that ‘ok, just one more’ glass of wine which triumphantly sends me crashing into the pillow having just about managed to take my shoes off).
Behold this sexy array of colours and textures – there’s so much going on but it really is so simple to put together, with ingredients that you’re not going to have to pay to import from far flung corners of the globe – or else spend hours crawling up and down the supermarket aisles to find, dusty and neglected on the very first shelf you went to, 20 minutes and three trolley ‘incidents’ later. Hurrah. So easy is this substantial and exciting little number that I often make it while I’ve got the dinner bubbling away on another hob, leaving the rest of your evening free and your conscious clear in the knowledge that you’ve done your gut and your bank balance a nice favour for the next day. Smug what?
On the blood sugar tip: I can handle butternut squash much better than most carbohydrates, so this really fills me up without the jeopardy that comes with navigating a carb heavy lunch sans nutritional label. There’s such a party happening in this lunch, and the little additions at the end really lift it to the next level. Get ready for lunchbox envy from your colleagues, dear friends.
Super squash with feta, green beans and mint
Makes 4 lunches
– 200g pack of fine beans
– 200g pack of feta
– 1 fairly large sized squash
– healthy pinch of dried chilli flakes
– 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
– juice of 1 lemon
– healthy handful of mint leaves (I don’t care for measuring much, can you tell?!)
– handful of flaked almonds
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
1. Cut your squash in half with the most serious knife you can find. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and roughly slice the skin off. If you can’t be bothered with that, most supermarkets will sell squash ready cubed, although it will cost you a bit more for the convenience.
2. Chop the squash into chunks, around 2cm by 2cm (but don’t panic, no one’s got a tape measure). Chuck the cubes into an oven dish.
3. Drizzle over a nice glug of olive oil, sprinkle over the chilli flakes (using more or less depending on how much heat you like), and shake the paprika over the top. Season with sea salt and pepper. Stir to coat the squash evenly with the goodness.
4. Pop into the oven at 180 degrees (fan) for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.
5. Meanwhile, chop the beans into thirds. This is just for ease of eating with a plastic fork at your desk. If you’re doing this for a nice dinner you can leave them whole if you like. Or not. Whatever.
6. Heat a little more olive oil in a small pan. Chuck them in and sauté through. You want them cooked but still crunchy – I like to leave them until they start to blister a bit.
7. Chuck the flaked almonds in with the beans. Cook for around a minute more – but beware the almonds will toast very quickly. Your kitchen will start to smell like you’ve been transported into a haze of a dreamy camp fire while being nestled in the bosom of a bowl of warm popcorn. HEAVEN. Set them aside to cool.
8. Take the squash out of the oven and check if it’s cooked. The outer will have started to go a bit gooey but the chunks should still hold their shape. If you can easily pass a knife through, they’re done.
9. While you’re waiting for everything to cool, pick the mint leaves off the stalks and roughly chop. Slice the lemon in half and cube your feta into 1cm by 1cm squares. Ish.
10. Once the beans and squash have cooled enough, squeeze over the lemon juice, chuck in the mint and feta and stir it all together. Season with a bit more pepper, but you don’t need extra salt as the feta will have it covered for you.
11. BEHOLD ITS BEAUTY.
12. Portion it off into lunch boxes and add a bit of protein, or some dense green, or both. I have mine will mackerel (your body’s gonna love those omegas), but you could have chicken or beef or anything you fancy.
13. Take to work, watch people stare enviously as they tuck into their sad sandwiches.
14. Skip through your afternoon as your body absorbs all the nutritional goodies you’ve consumed.