Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Wrap it

Its only just occurred to me that we haven't posted the most simple working lunch yet, THE wrap.

Forget paying £4.95 per wrap from a chain cafe - here's where its at.

8 x wraps
1 x lime
1 x tin of tuna
1 x pack of feta
1 x jar of pesto
1 x pack of spinach
1 x bunch of coriander
= £7.91

BUT it makes at least 3 lunches and all you need to stock up on after that for the 4th is the tuna. So about £2 per lunch.

Also tasty as hell. Check it out

Lunch courtesy of Katie Caldesi

Working with Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi means food is even more central to our thinking than ever before. We are lucky enough to have in our possession Katie's new book - The Italian Cookery Course. It's an amazing collection of recipes, masterclasses and ingredients from Katie's experiences of travelling across Italy. So, the immediate thought was 'what can we cook for lunch from Katie's book?' - I stepped up and accepted the challenge of going first and didn't hesitate to choose Stufato di salsicce, fave e patate as the first dish to serve up. Sausage, broad bean and potato casserole to you and I.

Katie's brilliant book which you should all get a copy of...

Sunday afternoon saw me in creative mood in the kitchen, photocopy of the recipe close by and all my ingredients ready to go. Without claiming to know anything or everything about Italian cooking, it seems to me that great ingredients prepared simply to provide the maximum taste and flavour is what it's all about. And this is exactly what this recipe was. It's essentially two simple stages - first you make your lampascione - potatoes, onions, pancetta and rosemary and then it's all about getting the sausages in your casserole dish, adding the potato recipe your tomatoes and cook it for 30 mins in the oven. I'd like to make out it was far more complicated and it took culinary skill beyond the mere mortal to come up with the end result, but that would be wildly misleading and actually far less fun. The best way of judging this is that I was able to prepare and cook this at home without either of my two eldest boys coming in to complain as to why I was in the kitchen and not playing football outside in the garden - so no excuses for not having the time to make it!

Lampascioni a la Gerry Williams!

And here it is - more than enough for Sunday's supper and Monday's lunch and such a short, easy list of ingredients makes it a really inexpensive but massively tasty meal. I made one small change, not being the biggest fan of broad beans, I swapped in butter beans and I'm pretty sure it worked ok...

For lunch, something so hearty needs nothing more than a simple side salad. So that's exactly what we did - spinach, avocado, feta and balsamic vinegar.

It's not the lightest meal to tackle in the day, so the 8 mile run home ensured that any guilt or shameful feelings of greed were balanced out. But to be honest, eating such flavour-packed, delicious food is a pleasure and one that we thank Katie for immensely. Just as impressive for a dinner party, this is one of the most flexible and fun dishes to make.

To learn loads more about Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, click here to go to their website and don't wait too long to visit one of their restaurants or create something from their vast array of amazing Italian recipes.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Kitchen Italia

If preparing your own lunch isn't the dish of the day then you can do a lot worse than get yourself along to Kitchen Italia. 'Dishing up delicious pasta' is their promise and they do exactly that. The layout of the restaurants is a la Wagamama - casual long benches or comfy booths if you want a slightly more private group, this is a place you can scoff and go or linger for longer. The food is all freshly prepared so you need to be ready for dishes to turn up when they're ready rather than everything coming in one go, but this is easily overlooked when you taste the food. Pasta dishes for under a tenner and a great range of side salads and dishes to compliment your choice means you can mix and match to your heart's content. Place mats that explain the different pastas are a neat little idea and are actually quite helpful in envisaging what you're ordering. Friendly (if not over enthusiastic staff) complete the package.

We've eaten tiger prawn, spicy sausage with fennel breadcrumb and aubergine pasta dishes - all packed with taste and flavour. The rocket and aged parmesan salad is a perfect distraction and easily enough to share. Birra Moretti in the fridge and carraffes of affordable white wine means all the essentials are here for a quick bite, a client lunch or a bunch of you going out for dinner. Currently in Covent Garden and Westfield, let's hope more Kitchen Italia's appear soon.

One for the boys this one...

Fresh basil on the table is a nice authentic touch

The portions are generous - ideal for sharing

Relaxed but stylish means Kitchen Italia can provide a great venue for a wide variety of occasions

Learn your pasta!

The original (and the best)

So, here it is. The 'original' dish in all its glory. The most tasty, satisfying creation yet with only the help of a few ingredients, a kettle and a microwave. Admittedly the original has been... adapted since its first introduction, but its always kept its core - cous cous, spinach, feta, tuna, pesto and coriander. Since Gerry's a spice lover this one includes loads of lazy chillies then soya beans to compliment the taste. Pesto and chilli - I know, doesn't sound good on paper, but try it. It's delicious.

This is our most regular lunch time dish & the one that gets us excited when we're making it. Its also the one that makes us feel most sleepy after so beware... You can always change the portions.

Because its such an adaptable dish I won't bore you with the details of how to create it. Here's a photo of some of the key ingredients (ignore the baked beans, they're for a hungover breakfast). If you want to know more, or have any good tips for cous cous let me know & we'll give it a go.

It doesn't get easier than this!

Half price Silverside of beef in Sainsburys is simply too good a deal to pass up on - makes lunch on Sunday for the Williams family and leaves loads left over for simple suppers and lunches in the week. Couple of slices chucked in the work bag on Monday morning only leaves some rocket and watercress and an avocado to pick up and you'll be back at your desk having had an amazingly tasty lunch before you know it (not necessarily a good thing!). Add some parmesan and balsamic vinegar if you're feeling flash. The epitome of less is more.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Toasted Chicken & Pesto Sandwich & Fresh Salad

In this little treat is chicken, pesto, spinach, mozzarella and spicy chilli chutney on granary seed bread. So simple and no frills - pack it with grilled chicken and all the other ingredients and squeeze the lid down! Whilst you wait for the sandwich, roughly chop some avocado and baby corn, pile a bit of the spinach on the plate add some cherry tomatoes and a tasty salad is yours. Roll a lime (to make sure you get as much of the juice as you can) squeeze it over, sprinkle some black pepper and that's it.

To make lunch as cost effective as possible, we have some key ingredients to use in a variety of simple dishes. Pesto is perhaps my favourite of all these. In cous cous or sandwiches, with tuna or chicken, pesto is an absolute winner. Green and red are equally brilliant with lots of different ingredients and the beauty is that you don't really need many more flavours - if you don't want.

The options for a quick and easy toasted sandwich are obviously endless. In this one we've used the ingredients that we use in lots of other dishes - so a little bit of thought and creativity (not too much required) helps to make the food go as far as it can. This lunch is a classic example of very little thinking or skill but so much taste. Happy days.