Lunch boxes for office have always been serious business. They made history in service industry by just collecting the lunch boxes from homes of office goers and delivering them to their offices, the Bombay Dabbawalas are now a case study at Harward Business School.
We Indians want home cooked food everyday even though we have become more and more experimental. Home cooked comfort is unparalleled.
The kind of mails and comments on blog and instagram I am getting, I understand the most loved lunch boxes will be the desi types. Roti subzi in the north and idlis and different types of rice preparations in the south are the kind of meals loved by adults in their office lunch boxes. School going kids prefer more fancy stuff but adults always want better value for the effort.
Also, for most of us lunch time is crucial because this is the first meal of the day that we eat at leisure and yet we want to call it a working lunch. Breakfast for most of us is a hurried affair. Incidentally for myself, breakfast is late and often makes a brunch which is mostly the stuff I pack for the husband, that makes me test the lunch box about any spoilage or change in taste or texture.
I learnt a few things regarding avoiding food spoilage and change in texture etc in packed lunches since I started packing lunches for both of us technically.
Here are the 5 things to ensure quick and convenient lunch boxes everyday...
- All raw salads have to be simple as there is not much time to chop and mix ingredients and dressings but the raw food has to be tossed with a little vinegar to avoid any spoilage.
- Rotis have to be folded while still hot and packed into the lunch box to keep the soft. Applying some butter or ghee helps retain the texture better.
- Don't carry any curries that may leak accidentally or may spill when opening the lunch box. Quick dry stir fries with minimal spicing works best as it gets ready quickly and stays fresh to be eaten after a few hours.
- Get the lunch boxes washed really well and rinsed with hot water everyday if they are not being machine washed. Any remaining bits of food will breed microbes and cause spoilage of food the next day. Grooves of the lids are to be watched.
- The cut fruits should be placed in the office refrigerator immediately after reaching or should be meant for the mid morning snacking. Cut fruits should not be kept for more than a couple of hours. Smaller fruits should be carried whole, only pineapple, papaya, melons etc can be cut and packed, preferably with a little lime juice to prevent oxidation.
The glass storage boxes from Luminarc and Borgonovo are great as they have a good tight filling plastic lid. I like stainless steel lunch boxes too as the food doesn't spoil and can be reheated in the old fashioned office ovens that most Government offices have. Some plastic lunch boxes form Tupperware are good only for the foods that can be eaten without reheating. I generally avoid microwave reheating in plastic, glass is better for MW cooking or reheating.
These stainless steel lunch boxes are from Trove, hand painted on the outside, making them look good, making lunch time a bit of fun. The paint doesn't come in contact with food so there is no worry of leaching of any chemicals.
Here is how I pack the roti subzi lunch boxes...
I believe in eating loads of seasonal vegetables so you will see I do some effort in cooking the vegetables and packing generous quantities too. It helps that I have a help for chopping the vegetables the previous day. I have provided quick subzi recipes typed in italics or have provided links to the subzi recipes.
This ghee fried peppery okra in the lunch box below is a favourite and we treat it as a salad more.
The other white gravy curry is a plain lauki (bottle gourd) cooked with coconut milk that we both love. It take about 10 minutes to cook 2 generous portions. Just pressure cook the diced lauki (600 gm) with 1/4 cup water and salt to taste, add 150 ml coconut milk and give a quick tadka of mustard seeds, dry red chillies and curry patta.
It helps when the subzi in the lunch box is simpler in flavours, as the flavours stay fresh even after 3-4 hours. More complex spicy curries may taste good to some, but they will make the lunch area quite smelly for others when one is eating lunch. We might not like to spread the aromas of our lunch box in a common dining room or even a private room where the aroma may stay on.
The other roti subzi lunch box has a Lauki chana daal subzi with Amritsari vadi and a garden salad with boiled eggs. The salad is just chopped red onions and raw spinach from garden tossed with kasundi (Indian mustard sauce) and poured over chopped boiled eggs. This way the eggs don't smell.
The subzi again takes some 15 minutes to cook. Heat mustard oil, add one Amritsari vadi (broken) into hot oil and fry till fragrant. Add a little turmeric powder, peeled and diced bottle gourd (500-600 gm bottle gourd), salt and soaked chana dal(3-4 tbsp soaked daal). Toss well to mix, add 1/2 cup water and pressure cook.
This subzi looks like a lot of effort but cooks quickly and tastes great to if you like Amritsari vadi. The good thing is, that the vadis have all the flavorings of real spices and some chillies so you don't need to add any to the subzi. This lobiya subzi with Amritsari vadiyan is almost similar and can be great lunch box subzi too.
Another subzi with Amritsari vadi is with Turai (sponge gourd that I made in similar fashion, with or without chana daal. See in the next lunch box. The other white gravy curry is a poppy seeds onion curry called peyaz posto with some paneer cubes.
Adding paneer or eggs to the lunch box makes it easier to balance. This 10 minute kasoori methi paneer will be great for lunch box. The celery tomato paneer bhurji, or another celery paneer also makes a great option or try this drumstick greens tomato and paneer curry for lunch box.
Another okra stir fry is made in just 5-6 minutes using pre cut whole baby okra. Just heat a little mustard oil, add a slit green chilly and dunk in the baby okra. Toss and stir fry for 3-4 minutes and sprinkle some yellow mustard powder, pepper powder, garlic powder and a little amchoor powder or lime juice. This one also serves as a salad and also tastes great when wrapped in plain rotis.
There is some quick paneer bhurji in this lunch box that also takes less than 5 minutes if you have pre cut onions and green chillies. To make this one I just use the pan which was used for the okra stir fry or any other stir fry that I made that day, no extra oil required. Just saute the green chillies and onion for a minute, add crumbled paneer, salt and pepper and scramble for a minute or till the paneer gets heated thoroughly. Pack as required.
There is some khatta meetha aam ka achar in the silicon muffin liner. These muffin liners are great to pack something extra in the lunch boxes.
There are many everyday subzi recipes you can follow and suit them to pack in the lunch box. Some more stir fry vegetables and stir fry salads form this blog can be adapted for lunch boxes. I love lotus stem curries and raw plantain too for room temperature meals akin to lunch box.
The rotis are always multi grain or at least a mix of barley flour and besan (chickpea flour) and we do like a generous smear of ghee on our rotis whenever we eat them.
I am planning to share some chutneys, sauces and quick salads suitable for lunch boxes in this series, as suggested by Ritika Kapoor in the comments section of last post. I understand that having some home made sauces and chutneys can be very convenient in planning lunch boxes for both adults and kids. I am glad there are more people who don't want to eat bottles sauces and chutneys and want to make the effort for getting the right thing.
To enter to win this give away you have to tell me what are your lunch box preferences generally and what more you would want to have everyday. Write your suggestions and your mail id in the comment section of this post and enter a chance to win this beauty for yourself. The give away is open till the end of July.
Keep telling me more about your lunch box requirements. You can find me on Facebook, instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Follow me there if you like what I do and keep giving me feedback as that is how you get to see what you want here.
This giveaway is open till the end of July 2015, applies within India, apologies for not being able to ship worldwide.
Please provide your mail id in the comment section so I can get in touch with you.