Stay away from the pork sandwich! Talia Hall writes, Becky Alexander of St. Albans brings the fun (and power) of plants to brunch.
Food writer and journalist Becky Alexander is passionate about healthy eating. Based in St Albans where she has lived with her family for over 20 years, she is a book editor at PenguinRandomHouse, reviewing the Herts food scene and judging for the Great Taste Awards. She is now on a mission to transform lunch.
A survey of workers’ lunches before the pandemic found that one in three of us, habitual creatures, eat the same thing every day, with 70 percent revealing that a ham sandwich was the most popular lunch. If all of this sounds a bit lackluster, unhealthy, and bad for the planet, Becky hopes her new book The Green Lunch Box can help turn things around. With 60 vegetarian and food-friendly recipes, this small and practical book features simple, nutritious lunchtime alternatives to pork sarnie.
“The British are reluctant to cut meat all together, so my idea is, OK, why don’t we try lunch?” Becky says about the idea behind the book. “We don’t need animal protein every day, let alone every meal, so ditch the packages of small chicken nuggets or tuna salads and together that will make a huge difference.”
While we all want to be good for our planet, we also want delicious food, Becky recipes that look delicious. I love that in addition to the standard index, you can search for recipes that only take five minutes to assemble or use leftovers, or can be made the night before.
I’m way too late to get a cookbook organized in a way that is relevant to the way people actually live their lives and I’ve already flagged a number of recipes I’m eager to try. Ingredients like Carlin peas, grown in the UK, are new to me, but other than that, my store cupboard contains the lentils, chickpeas, nuts and black beans needed for so many recipes. I just need to shop for fresh veggies and herbs for a winning lunch.
Cans of cooked black beans, chickpeas, and lentils are cheap and easy to use—you can add them directly to salads and wraps.
Becky’s eating has changed drastically since her usual diet in the 1970s and ’80s consisted of fish fingers for tea. These days her family has their own preferences and they take turns cooking the evening meal. ‘Two of us are vegetarians and two of us eat meat occasionally. It’s a game of manipulation but we’re working on it—we all love it when we have tacos with chili and sauce or a big lentil cottage pie. We get a vegetable box that leads to what we’re cooking.
But lunchtime is Becky’s domain and her book evolved from the meals she prepared for her family while she and her husband worked from home. Soups, salads, and roasted vegetable dishes can be found in her delightful visual book with Sally Colwell’s adorable illustrations and photos of finished recipes.
It all sounds wonderfully healthy and virtuous but if we want to move away from our frequent consumption, how do we change the way we think? Becky says it’s about being good with yourself. You need and deserve to take a break from your work, whatever it is, and refuel in the afternoon. Decent hot food carafe is great for hot soups and lunches. If you have a lunch bag with ice bags in it, you don’t need to rely on a working refrigerator.
The UK has one of the highest rates of meat consumption in the world – and it is a significant contributor to carbon emissions to warming the planet. Add to this that most lunch packs are single use and very little is recycled, and making personal changes can have an impact.
“I was eating meat until about five years ago,” Becky says. In my work as a journalist I read so many reports about the climate and how animals are raised for meat that I can’t justify them anymore. I’m more vegetarian than vegan because I might eat cheese now and then, or fish if I’m on vacation near the coast. I believe that if we all reduced our animal intake and tried a rich variety of other foods, a massive change would occur.
With plant-based proteins and a variety of vegetables, Becky says you won’t have that mid-afternoon energy slump, plus it’s hard to argue with her statement that ‘buying lunch at a gas station or queuing at a convenience store’ Your lunch is not. this is funy “.
Becky says eating according to the season is also important, but so does eating according to how you feel about the day, and two of her favorite recipes now include broad beans and peas on sourdough, and spicy black beans. Dark chocolate soup. Chocolate soup? “Chocolate is optional but believe me, it works!”
The Green Lunch Box, designed by Becky Alexander, is now released. For more inspiration on green eating, St Albans Sustainability Week takes place May 15-31, Sustainablestalbans.org
Beans and Broad Peas “Guacamole” on Sourdough
If you want to cut back on your avocado habit, try this vibrant, protein-packed lunch instead. It’s also nice with crumbled cheese on top. If you’re using this at work, just add another slice and turn it into a sandwich – easy!
Ingredients for one lunch
50g broad beans (fresh or frozen), crushed
50gm Frozen Petits Boyce
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Hertfordshire rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1 slice of sourdough
1 garlic clove, peeled
Chili flakes for sprinkling
Sea salt and black pepper
Method (prep 10 minutes, cook 5 minutes)
Put the beans and peas in a pot of boiling water and simmer for five minutes. Put it in a colander and rinse it with cold water. Poach the broad beans and peel off any husks.
Reserve a few beans for garnish if you like, then put the rest in a blender with the peas, lemon peel, juice, and 1 teaspoon of oil. Whisk blends and chops approx. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
toast bread. While it is still hot, drizzle a little oil and rub it with a clove of garlic. Top the bean mixture, adding chili flakes to taste, and more lemon juice, if desired.
Butter and halloumi salad
I had a lunch like this at one of my favorite cafes in St Albans and then created this version at home. You can eat this warm or cold, so it’s a good idea to take it to work or eat at home.
Ingredients for two or three lunches
1 tablespoon Hertfordshire rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
2 chopped green onions
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 x 400 g tin cooked butter, drained and washed
200 grams halloumi cheese or vegan cheese, cut into cubes
2 tsp dried herbs or thyme
2 tablespoons apple juice or wine vinegar
2 handfuls of salad leaves (add any other leftover salad you have in the fridge if you like!)
Method (prepare five minutes, cook five minutes)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the green onions, red peppers, butter and halloumi. Cook for five minutes, stirring constantly, until the butter takes on a little color and the halloumi is slightly brown.
Add herbs and vinegar, then season with black pepper to taste. Serve over salad leaves. Stir just before eating, so the leaves are coated with some oil and vinegar.
Bliss Cake Carrot Balls
It’s quick, easy to make and more environmentally friendly than buying disposable plastic snack balls. Store it in the refrigerator (it will last about a week, covered) and eat it when you need an energy boost.
Ingredients are not balls
50g walnuts (broken pieces are ok)
6 or 7 dates, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely grated
½ teaspoon mixed spice or ground cinnamon
A little lemon flavor
Method (preparation five minutes)
Put everything in a blender and blend it together. Don’t worry if the dates and walnuts are a little chunky.
Roll the mixture into six balls using your hands.
Put it in the fridge to firm up and store it there until you’re ready to eat.
Top tip: You can also use any nuts and dried fruits you like in these foods. You can also roll it in dried coconut powder or cocoa.