MOVE AWAY FROM THE CRISPS!
PUT THE CHOCOLATE BAR BACK ON THE SHELF
THROW OUT THOSE WHITE SOGGY SANDWICHES
This is the new generation of lunchbox heaven from around the world.
Tantalise your children’s taste buds. Let me set the scene for you; here they are surrounded by their mates at school, about to tuck into their usual everyday lunch box items but not today. Picture their expressions of SUPRISE as they open their lunchboxes, look down, look up, look down, look up again, look across at their friend’s lunchboxes and wonder “has my mum gone mad or has an alien swooped down from out of space and stolen my lunch, replacing it with some foods from planet 51”?
Looking around for inspiration, the task of having to make one of these ghastly things up every day – even for a pro Chef passionate about food like me is pure agony.
So let’s step out of the (lunch)box and take a look at the rest of the world for some inspiration.
We could look at the countries that are renowned for their exquisite cuisine (mentioning no names…France). There your children might enjoy a baguette filled with brie and grapes, or an artichoke or perhaps a citron tarte. Perhaps Sweden, where your children would encounter meatballs and the very famous lingonberry juice, which as the word suggests, sticks in your mouth. We could journey to Italy and grab a calzone (folded pizza) for lunch; but let’s journey right out of our lunchbox:
Tiffin… marvellous word don’t you think? These are metal boxes, cylindrical shaped for easy stacking and very popular in Mumbai – used by adult and children alike. They are delivered to work places and schools containing chapattis, roti, curry, lentils or rice
They have containers called Baon that look a bit like small round colourful Tupperware containers with beef tapa, meat omelettes and western-style sandwiches.
The lunchbox is called Dosirak – a plastic or wooden container with such dishes as mixed grain rice with pickled vegetable and fish, or dried seaweed. Children have a sweet yogurt milk drink with their lunch.
Not ticking any boxes of inspiration? How about the Bento box from Japan? Now this will get me cooking. For those who don’t know, a Bento box is a compartmented box so that you can put small amounts of different yummy healthy foods for them to choose from. The Japanese use rice moulds to shape favourite characters like pandas, chicks, even “Hello Kitty”. Brilliant…if you have the time!
Let’s explore an English version of Bento Box:
• If you don’t want to buy a box, use silicone cake cases to separate your goodies
• Your Bento box should contain:
• Fun – throw in some chop sticks (you can get easy-to-use pairs that are joined together from Waitrose)
• More fun – a joke to share with their friends or a funny picture
• And of course something to eat…but make it colourful – we eat with our eyes
Make it a healthy balanced nutritious meal:
• Protein – to provide energy to keep them alert and help them grow
• Good Carbohydrates for slow release of energy, whole fibre, not refined sugars
• Calcium for healthy teeth and bones
• Fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals
Of course not all of us can come up with works of art like designer Heather Sitarzewski who has created some fantastic bento lunches – see them on her site Lunchboxawesome…
Pick and mix selection
Ideas and stuff to use or generally trigger another creative design of your own: think small portions for Bento, or larger portions for your standard lunchbox menu.
Rice Noodles with grated carrot mixed with coriander Prawns or spicy sausage, grated cheese with a little soy.
Wild rice balls with tuna and mayonnaise (and if you have time or the energy look on line for rice moulds)
Raw sugar-snap peas, baby sweet-corn, Romano pepper sticks with a yummy dip like tzatziki or cream cheese and red pepper.
Cherry tomatoes with mini mozzarella balls and pesto (nut free) with mini Pitta bread or crunchy croutons which you could add to any salad.
Cheese and mini savoury seeded crackers – add squares or balls if honeydew melon, or a handful of raisins in the mix.
Mini spicy chicken wraps with cream cheese and crunchy veg.
Savoury popcorn (great source of fibre and vegetable protein)
Hard boiled quail’s eggs.
Fresh fruit with yoghurt dip, grapes, strawberries, raspberries melon in a small container or Bento box.
Dried fruit: (dried apple, banana chips, dried apricots mixed with pumpkin seeds).
Homemade cakes/muffins and scones – you can add veg, or fruit and cut down on the sugar. Make a batch and freeze, put in their lunchbox frozen to help to keep it cool)
New spuds halved or left whole for dipping
Multi-grained pasta with red or green pesto with salmon flakes and salad. Mix wholemeal with regular pasta, it looks more colourful and gets them used to eating wholemeal pasta (which is higher in fibre, better for slow realising energy and more nutrients).
Not all of us have the time or energy to create these every day, but why not try at least once a week perhaps as a Friday treat?
Michele Harper is a qualified chef and patissiere who has worked in busy restaurant kitchens, schools and nurseries. Having three children of her own has provided her with plenty of first hand experience entertaining children in the kitchen and developing in children an interest in food and healthy eating while having fun.