How many times in the working week do you take a proper break? Whether you work formally or not, and whatever your job, we all need downtime. We need to recharge and our brains really need to pause, and to be fed. Stopping work to do something absorbing, such as cookery, has been shown in studies to help us get more done with the rest of the day, and quicker, so you can get on with the rest of your life. You deserve a break. Here are a few simple snacks to look forward to.
There’s nothing wrong with reliable cheese and pickle, but we can pack a lot more joy into a sarnie. What about hot fish-finger sandwiches, made with crusty bread, and slathered with tartare sauce? Or egg mayonnaise with green chillies and capers? Or smoked mackerel with creme fraiche and cucumber? Or Cornish yarg with a handful of watercress? Or cheddar toasties spiked with shredded kimchi? Roast chicken with chicory and blue cheese? Ham with piccalilli and rocket? Pulled barbecued jackfruit in a warm bun with some coleslaw? Roasted aubergine and roasted peppers with tahini sauce and flaked almonds?
Load up your larder and your fridge with some of these extra bits to make your next sandwich worth stopping for.
Batch cook these moreish soy sauce-marinated eggs and keep them in the fridge. Eat them on their own, as a snack; on toast with sliced spring onion and sriracha hot sauce (and maybe a smear of avocado); halved and nestled in miso broth with noodles and vegetables; with rice or congee, or in a salad with radish, coriander and peanuts, and a lime and fish-sauce dressing.
Method Place two room-temperature eggs into a pan of simmering water and cook for seven minutes. While the eggs cook, mix 5 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, ½ teaspoon sugar and 5 tablespoons water. When the eggs are done, cool under cold running water. Shell, then immerse in the soy mixture. Leave for at least 15 minutes, turning a few times, but overnight (in the fridge) is even better.
Love your leftovers
Is there anything better than realising that you saved last night’s leftover takeaway, and will shortly be adding some chickpeas and turning it into a delicious curry wrap? Often, the small quantities of food left after an evening meal are just the right size to repurpose into a lighter solo lunch, maybe with added pulses or salad. Cooked broccoli could be sauteed and piled on toast with ricotta or feta. Mash becomes fried potato cakes, perhaps with smoked fish or an egg on top. Chilli morphs into a burrito with grated cheese and lettuce.
Roasted trail mix
Trail mix was designed for hiking but is equally suited to workday break times. This is a fancier, spicier version of the original.
Method Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 180C. Tip 200g mixed chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts), ideally skin on, and 50g pumpkin and sunflower seeds on to the tray. Place in the oven and cook for four minutes. Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoons of maple syrup with 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of chilli powder, a pinch of smoked paprika and a pinch of salt. Remove the tray from the oven and drizzle over the maple mixture, then toss to coat. Cook for a further five minutes, stir, then cook for another four to six minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool. Eat as is or add 50g mixed dried fruit and/or 50g chopped very dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate brownie bites
While I’m not going to pretend my brownies are a health food, they are made with extremely dark chocolate, which is full of gut health-boosting flavonoids, plus dried fruit and nuts for a far better range of micronutrients than you’ll find in most packaged snacks. And how do you not eat the entire tray at once? Cut into really small portions – you need only a nibble with a cuppa. Freeze once cool, taking one out each morning to defrost.
Method Preheat the oven to 170C (fan). Melt together 125g good-quality very dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) 50g butter and 60ml rapeseed oil. Set aside to cool. Whisk two eggs and one egg white with ½ teaspoon fine salt, 100g caster sugar and 75g light brown sugar, until pale, thick and mousse-like. Mix together 50g unsweetened cocoa powder, 60g plain flour and ½ teaspoon baking powder, then sieve over the whipped eggs (don’t mix). Pour in the chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, 100g chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, brazils) and 50g dried blueberries, cranberries or cherries. Fold everything together until just combined. Pour into a lined metal tin (approximately 24cm x 24cm) and bake for 15 minutes for squidgy brownies (add two minutes if you prefer a cakey texture). Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin, then gently slice into 20 small portions. Freeze once cool.
• Solo: How To Work Alone (And Not Lose Your Mind), by Rebecca Seal, is out now (Souvenir Press).