It’s that back-to-school/back-to-work weekend, when the gears suddenly shift, especially for those who are returning to the office for the first time in ages. It can all be a bit of a bump, this great return, but it’s one that can be softened by some tasty work lunches: things that can be made the night before, or moreish snacks that keep well for days, ready to be nibbled on. The desk might be clean-slate clear, but there’s no harm in a few flakes of pastry or crumbs from some brittle to help ease the transition.
The punchy North African condiment chermoula keeps well in the fridge for about a week, ready to add flavour to all sorts: it’s a great marinade for fish and meat, and also works well alongside roast vegetables, so it’s worth making double the amount needed here. Once filled, the puffs can be baked a day ahead of eating, either straight away or from frozen (in which case they’ll need another minute or two in the oven). Once baked, store in an airtight container.
Prep 15 min
Chill 20 min
Cook 50 min
For the puffs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced (200g net weight)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 red pepper, cut in half, stem, seeds and pith discarded, flesh chopped into 2cm pieces (120g net weight)
350g skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2cm pieces
1½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
50ml double cream
1½ tsp lime juice (ie, from 1 lime)
1 x 320g rectangular sheet all-butter puff pastry, cut into four equal pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp nigella seeds
For the chermoula
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped (remove the seeds and pith if you prefer less heat; 10g net weight)
7¾ tbsp (30g) coriander, roughly chopped
7¾ tbsp (30g) parsley, roughly chopped
20g mint leaves
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
90ml olive oil
60ml lime juice (ie, from about 3 limes)
Salt and black pepper
Put the oil in a large saute pan set over a medium high heat and, once hot, add the onion, garlic and red pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about eight minutes, until lightly coloured. Add the chicken, cumin seeds, chilli flakes, tomato paste and a half-teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring regularly, for 15 minutes, until cooked through and lightly coloured. Stir in the cream, lime juice and three tablespoons of water, cook for another five minutes, until the mixture is glossy and the chicken is well coated in the sauce, then take off the heat and leave to cool.
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Lay out the four pieces of puff pastry on a clean work surface, and divide the cooled chicken filling between them, placing it in the middle of each rectangle. Lightly brush the exposed edges of the pastry with the beaten egg, then fold over the shorter ends to meet in the middle. Seal by firmly pinching together the edge to create a scalloped pattern similar to that of a pasty (alternatively, crimp the edges together). Transfer the puffs to a large oven tray lined with baking paper, brush with any remaining egg and sprinkle with the nigella seeds. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes (or longer, if time allows), and bake from cold for 20-25 minutes, until deeply golden and cooked through.
Meanwhile, make the chermoula. Put all the ingredients in a food processor with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, blitz smooth and transfer to a bowl.
Serve the chicken puffs warm or at room temperature with the chermoula on the side.
This is leftover supper rolling into next-day work desk lunch. Use any herbs you have to hand, and replace the parmesan with a different hard cheese (such as pecorino or ricotta salata), if you prefer. Alternatively, leave out the cheese altogether to make this vegan.
Prep 20 min
Cook 25 min
60ml olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
250g oyster mushrooms, left whole or, if large, torn in half
250g chestnut mushrooms, cut into quarters
5¼ tbsp (20g) tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
7¾ tbsp (30g) parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced in rounds
1½ tbsp lemon juice (ie, from 1 lemon)
20g parmesan, finely grated
For the crisp bits
3 tbsp olive oil
80g sunflower seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
60g panko breadcrumbs
½ tsp chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Put two tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan for which you have a lid, and set on a medium-high heat. Once hot, fry the orzo and garlic, stirring often, for five minutes, until the orzo is lightly coloured. Add the spices, fry for another minute, until fragrant, then add the stock, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, turn the heat to low and leave to cook undisturbed for 15 minutes, until the orzo is cooked through and all the liquid has been absorbed. Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the mushrooms, remaining two tablespoons of oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper on a large oven tray lined with greaseproof paper and toss to coat. Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, until golden and crisp in places, then remove and set aside.
Now for the topping. Put the oil in a small saucepan on a medium high heat, then fry the sunflower seeds, breadcrumbs, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a small plate and leave to cool.
Stir the roast mushrooms, herbs, spring onions and lemon juice through the orzo, and sprinkle over half the parmesan and half the crisp topping. Serve warm or at room temperature with the remaining parmesan and topping alongside.
This is vegan and highly addictive (and can also be gluten-free – there are several gluten-free cornflake brands now out there, so look out for one of those, if required); it also keeps well for two weeks in an airtight container, so double the quantities and be everyone’s favourite person when it comes to mid-morning office snacks. Tweak the recipe to your liking – use whatever seeds you have to hand, and/or almond butter and roast almonds rather than peanuts.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4-6 as a snack
75g cornflakes, roughly crushed
45g unsalted peanuts, nicely toasted and roughly chopped
35g coconut chips (aka coconut flakes)
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp white and/or black sesame seeds
¾ tsp flaked sea salt
125g maple syrup
50g natural peanut butter, smooth or crunchy, depending on preference
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Line a large 38cm x 30cm baking tray with greaseproof paper, and have ready a second sheet of paper of similar dimensions.
Combine the first six ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk the maple syrup and peanut butter, then mix into the cornflake bowl until everything is well coated.
Spoon on to the lined baking tray, lay the second piece of paper over the top and, using a rolling pin, roll backwards and forwards to flatten the mixture so it’s an even thickness and covers the entire surface of the tray.
Remove the top sheet of paper, then bake for 25 minutes, rotating the tray once halfway through, until golden. Leave to cool completely – about 30 minutes – then break into shards and serve right away, or store in an airtight container to eat later.