We’re now over 3 months into lockdown in the UK to combat the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. Things are gradually starting to go back to “normal”; non-essential shops are reopening, pubs and other leisure facilities will be reopning next week, and those living alone are encouraged to join a “social bubble” for their mental health. New cases are steadily dropping, but there still looms an air of caution and apprenhension amongst a lot of the public, with the threat of a “second wave” looming large.
Since I posted Lockdown Eating, over 2 months ago now, Lockdown life has very much started to feel like the new normal. To me it seems there’s a split in opinion of those adapting, even settling in, to a quieter way of life; and the others, who yearn for their old life and getting things back running again. I fall into the former camp.
Black Lives Matter has dominated our screens and consciousness for the past 2-3 weeks. The outrage at the unlawful killing of black citizen George Floyd sparked a worldwide movement of protests, both peaceful and provoking. Once again, particularly in the UK, it feels we’re a divided nation. Many marched far and wide to spread the message that black lives matter; the following weekend, a vocal minority took to the streets to counter-protest in the name of patriotism.
Whilst things are never clear cut, it’s hard to fathom taking the argument against black lives mattering. Or against the persecution and systematic racism that is so embedded in all of society for generations. Against the very notion that black people simply want the same rights, opportunities and safety that white people have in such abundance that they don’t even acknowledge its existance. It’s called white privilege.
Despite the lingering anger, sadness and fight for justice, inevitably life ticks on. The Premier League has returned—albeit in a safe and sanitised way— and has flooded the Internet and sports channels. From next week we can visit our families again, from a safe distance. In a time when so much has changed about our day to lives, food has remained a true constant. And for those who enjoy cooking and preparing food, it has been a solace.
Food grounds us, and brings us together. Lunch has been the biggest change during lockdown, for me at least. It’s been nice to give it a bit more focus than before. Between busy work days, quieter days, days of optimism, rainy days and sunny days, there’s been a real mix of dishes I’ve put together over lockdown. Enjoy my selection below of light lunches, leftovers, anything on toast, and big plates!
The classic lunch: the sandwich. Or if you’re feeling creative - a bagel or a pitta. There’s always calling for a quick lunch, even when you’re at home, and a sandwich fits the bill perfectly.
Squeaky Bean are a fairly new company (launched 2019) that do some great “deli style” sliced, plant-based meats. Including ham, pastrami and chicken. They go great in a sandwich with some salad and cheese. I put together a few pittas with some easy red cabbage coleslaw I made up that week.
Pittas are great little pockets that hold mostly anything you’ve got in the fridge! They’ll contain sauce nicely too.
Coleslaw works brilliantly in regular sliced bread too; here it is with some vegan kebab pieces and spinach. A good tip to make your sandwiches a bit more interesting (and a great use of slightly stale bread) is to toast them lightly, before spreading on some spread or mayo. Yum.
It’s so easy and delicious to veganise classics. Here I made a chickpea-based tuna salad sandwich (using Cupful of Kale’s recipe), and a moreish sausage, bean and cheese toastie. The “tuna” is incredible; flavoursome, filling and fresh. It doesn’t taste like fish, but somehow gives your mouth the taste of the sea (in a good way)!
I lived off cheese and bean toasties at university. With the plethora of vegan cheeses now available, it’s not difficult to replicate that nostalgic combo of beans and cheese, without the animal products. Add in a sausage and you’ve got a meal in a sandwich. Just whack this in a hot pan with 2 buttered slices of wholegrain bread 😋.
There’s nothing quite like opening the fridge and remembering you saved a portion of a delicious dinner you made a few days before sitting in a tupperware. Sprucing it up with some salad or coleslaw and you’ve got yourself an easy and vibrant lunch; you already did most of the work a few days ago.
Here I paired a leftover daal with some fresh rice, crispy cooked kale and dreggs of some coleslaw. This spruced up what would have been a pretty uninspiring small portion of leftover daal!
I had some leftover flatbread dough (recipe on part 1 of lockdown eating), which I fried up fresh for lunch. On it I added some of the leftover chickpea tuna, avocado, hotsauce and mixed seeds. On the side I had some cherry tomatoes and rocket. This is a delicious way to vary a sandwich filling (make it a topper!), and pairs superbly with a fresh, warm flatbread.
The best leftover meals are the truly inventive ones that draw from numerous previous meals sat in the fridge. More often than not, you can make things work together! I actually included this meal in part 1 of this blog post, but I think it bears repeating. Introducing: leftover sausage bean stew, brown rice and leftover roasted sweet potato, coleslaw, and leftover cauliflower wings & ranch sauce. My kind of variety meal!
A real wholesome, ugly, bringer-together meal. Fried veggie rice, toasted pitta, Quorn nuggets from the freezer, a drizzle of Sriracha mayo and topped with seeds. The rice was a bit of a fail the night before, so I thought I’d spice it up for lunch with some of the excellent Quorn nuggets, a crispy, fluffy toasted pitta and a drizzle of spicy Sriarcha mayo. Enjoyed on a warm, late spring day outside, this was a real winner.
I’m reminded by my French friend, things in-or-on bread is an overtly British thing to do and is borderline offensive to other cuisines. I love it. It doesn’t even need to be fancy bread - whatever you’ve got. It’s also a great way to add bulk and protein to a meal, particularly if you keep it wholegrain.
I made up this recipe based on a meagre fridge offering at the time and have since adapted it to whatever I have available. It’s versatile and the core of it is pretty simple. The method:
- Add some vegan butter to a pan
- Gently fry some garlic for a few minutes
- Add sliced mushrooms and lightly brown for 3 or 4 minutes
- Add a teaspoon of miso paste and a tablespoon of coconut cream
- Mix and let it bubble away for a minute
- If it’s a bit dry, add some water
- Add a handful of spinach and let it wilt down
- Add a few good grounds of black pepper
- Serve on toast with a combination of seeds, corriander, spring (or crispy) onions and nutritional yeast
Hummus is surprisingly relatively low in protein, considering it’s largely made up of chickpeas. It is tasty though. Pair it with some vegan kebab meat substitute, some leftover black beans, a slice of wholegrain toast, and a sprinkling of seeds and you’re ticking all the right protein and healthy fat boxes. Top it off with a healthy handful of spinach and a good dollop of coleslaw.
Sometimes beans on toast is all you need, or all you have time for; but if you’re a bit more invested, you can take the humble baked bean and pair it with other things to make a more interesting and complete meal. I fried up some cherry tomatoes and mushrooms, cooked a veggie sausage and slathered it all beans and nutritional yeast. Basically, a Full English, heavy on the beans.
Scrambled tofu is the bomb. Creamy, flavoursome, packed with protein, and as delicious as I remember eggs ever being. It takes a little more preparation than eggs, but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll have it down. I’m a big fan of the BOSH! recipe for this; the combination of firm and silken tofu is the key.
Serve this on toast with some spinach, cherry tomatoes, bacon, sausage, mushroom, whatever you like! This is seriously wholesome and seriously delicious. And you’re not supporting an industry that, y’know, literally grinds up male chicks because they’re of no use to them. I don’t need that on my conscience.
Sometimes, you can go big at lunch. If you have a bit more time, and you’ve had an early or light breakfast - or particularly if you’ve had an active morning - a big lunch is all that will do. Below is a selection of big plates when a sandwich just didn’t cut it.
One of my favourite bowls combines roasted and raw ingredients. This creates a wonderful texture and variation on the palette. Below I had some roasted sweet potato left over - always a good thing to roast more than you need! - and combined it with some leftover brown rice, sauted mushrooms, roasted nuts and seeds, spinach and chopped red onion. Finished off with a drizzle of sriracha.
Pasta salad is something I’ve always enjoyed, it’s a great picnic food. You have great freedom with salad to do anything you like with whatever you’ve got on hand too. I created a pasta salad using some red lentil pasta (mega gainz), red cabbage, courgette, cucumber and vegan mayo.
On a day I was craving carbs, I cleared up the last portion of pasta salad with a baked potato filled with sauted soy sriracha mushrooms. A monster lunch.
Lentil pasta is a great way to enjoy pasta while also upping your protein intake. I mixed some with some leftover vegan al fredo sauce from the BOSH! carbonara recipe and added in some sauted soy mushrooms (again; these are good) and sauted cherry tomatoes. Served with some rocket. This turned out to be pretty much a carbonara, with a bit of a twist. Was delicious though!
The mushrooms were made with olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, smoked paprika and apple cider vinegar. Coat the mushrooms in the sauce and fry until tasty. They won’t go super crispy.
I’d just gotten back from a morning cycle ride when I put this meal together. I did a quick marinade of soy sauce, Sriracha, chipotle paste, vinegar and maple syrup and then baked the tofu in the oven. Chucked some garlic ciabatta sticks in the oven and brought a pan of new potatoes up to boil. Served with some coleslaw (do you sense the theme around coleslaw?) and it was the perfect protein-rich, carb-full post-workout lunch. Don’t be afraid of the double-carb if you’re recovering from a workout.
I love picnics. I love the plethora of choice; a smorgasbord on the ground. Often though, it can be a bit of a let-down if you’re the only vegan there. I rustled up these amazing salads which travel well, are incredibly filling, and are a great accompaniment to any picnic.
First: the pasta salad. Made with pasta, black beans, chickpeas, tomato, avocado, sweetcorn, coriander and mint. I dressed it with olive oil, lime and salt & pepper.
Second: the potato salad. Made with seasonal jersey royals, Hellman’s vegan mayo, wholegrain mustard, spring onions, chives and half a red onion. I absolutely love potatoes, and when it’s covered in all these wonderful ingredients, it really brings this dish up.
I served simply with cucumber sticks and bacon sprinkles (absolutely mad for these, ever since I discovered the Pizza Hut buffet as a child). Happy picnicing (a safe lockdown activity)!
For all my lunch creations, keep up to date on my Instagram.