Here’s the third instalment of my lockdown cooking ideas for your lunch inspiration!
Since this is already part 3 in this cooking ideas series, I’ve already covered most of my food related philosophy in the previous two introductions, so I’ve decided to keep it brief in this one. In short, here are another 14 meals my boyfriend and I ate during the coronavirus lockdown in Slovenia, because I went on a huge cooking spree.
I firmly believe that it is worth taking the time to cook a good meal and that anyone can do it, so I hope this series will serve as lunch inspiration and motivate you to have your own adventure in the kitchen, during corona crisis time or otherwise. As always, these are ideas, not exact recipes, because I cook by feel and generally want to encourage you to improvise with what you have in the fridge, particularly in such a way that you minimise your food waste (yes, I have a post about that, come read 🙂 ).
#1: Horseradish cream soup, smoked herrings, lentil salad with pumpkin seed oil and black radish salad with feta cheese and spring onions
This first one was a post-Easter attempt at eating something a bit different and using up leftover horseradish. I made a simple cream soup with onions, horseradish, scrap soup stock (my way of using up vegetable scraps is to turn them into soup stock, see here), cooking cream and black pepper. Then we had my grandmother’s Christmas classic: cooked green lentil salad with pumpkin seed oil and red wine vinegar and smoked herrings, except this time we had two different types of smoked herrings, because we still had some pickled herrings from Ikea.
We also had a black radish salad with spring onions and feta cheese, because my boyfriend loves black radish salad. It’s an interesting vegetable for sure, with a very unique taste. Although it will give you garlic-level bad breath, it’s worth it, and you can either eat it raw or cooked, like in the pasta I made in pt. 2 of this lunch inspiration series.
#2: The “there’s no such thing as too much cheese” pizza
I’d say this one is pretty self explanatory. 🙂 I made a very classic pizza dough and loaded the pizza with as much cheese as it could handle (a bit more even). It also had some ham and tomato sauce with oregano hidden underneath the cheese, as well as fresh tomato slices and olives on top. I find that fresh tomatoes work really well as a pizza topping, particularly for balancing the ungodly amount of cheese I like to put on. For this one I used mozzarella and regular grated yellow cheese.
#3: Pancake brunch with hibiscus cocktails
One weekend we decided to have a proper pancake brunch with thick American pancakes and we stuffed ourselves so much we didn’t eat lunch afterwards at all, so this one counts as lunch too! We went all out with bananas, blueberries, peanut butter, chocolate-cream spread, redberry jam, sugar, lemon juice, dates and raisins and of course cocktails. Since we didn’t have any whipping cream, we whipped up some egg whites and I can honestly tell you that it was better than whipped cream. The egg whites are lighter and fluffier,which went perfectly with the cocoa chocolate spread and blueberries. Also, in general my favourite pancake topping is lemon juice with sugar, so you should really try that if you haven’t already.
As for cocktails I had to improvise a bit, because we didn’t have many cocktail appropriate ingredients at home. I ended up making hibiscus sugar syrup, which we paired with rosé wine and lemon juice. The weird looking thing floating in the glass is a dried hibiscus flower, which was supposed to look pretty, but really didn’t. The cocktails were quite good though.
#4: Spring soup with popcorn, couscous stuffed tomatoes and salad with fermented beets, feta cheese, bell peppers, apples and chilli
Next up we had one of my random use the leftovers experiments: a spring soup with everything we had in the fridge and popcorn as a crunchy topping. I made it with onions, radish leaves, the green parts of cauliflower, soy quick pickled garlic, scrap soup stock and a bit of cream. The popcorn actually worked quite well instead of croutons and it made it fun to eat, so why not?
After the soup we had oven-baked stuffed tomatoes and the leftover stuffing, because I’m relatively bad with estimating the quantity of couscous needed. The stuffing was made with egg, couscous, cream, black pepper and cilantro leaves. I feel like cilantro works great with tomatoes, but I know it’s a love-it-or-hate it herb for many people. We also had a weird, but really good salad with fermented beetroots, feta cheese, bell peppers, apples and fresh chillies. Tart green apples go super well with beetroots and salads in general and the fresh chillies gave it a bit of a kick.
#5: Roasted swordfish in butter sage, garlic and lemon sauce, sauteed chard with almonds, baked potatoes and tomato
Due to the whole unfortunate world pandemic situation a lot of food delivery businesses popped up around Slovenia lately, because people who used to supply restaurants had to divert their business somehow. My family found a great fishmonger delivery service, so my boyfriend and I started eating like kings at that point. Exhibit A: swordfish fillets.
I made them carefully roasted on olive oil in a pan and added a buttery sauce with sage, garlic and lemon juice, which turned out amazing. Naturally we had to have chard with fish, so I made sauteed chard with ground almonds, garlic, onions and white pepper. Almonds are one fo the unexpected things that go great with most kinds of sea-stuff and chard, so go for it. We also had oven-baked potatoes with butter and oregano and a baked tomato with black pepper. If you want your potatoes to turn out soft and delicious, I really recommend this sliced version, where you cut the slices about 3/4 through the potatoes and stuff them with butter, salt and herbs, because the butter will soak into the potatoes while they’re baking. You can also put in slices of onions or bacon for a great side dish.
#6: Spaghetti with clams and pumpkin seed pie with strawberries
Exhibit B: spaghetti with clams. This species of clams is called vongole and apparently spaghetti alle vongole is a famous recipe (check out the link on its name), but I made them with my own, slightly exotic, sauce. I felt a huge surge of lunch inspiration that day and cooked the clams in a mixture of coconut oil, tomato puree, fish soup stock, chopped onions, spinach and garlic with fresh parsley, cilantro, safflower, white pepper and lemon juice. Clams don’t actually need to be cooked long, just long enough to make sure that they open on their own and if any of them stay closed after boiling them it’s better not to eat them.
On the same day I also decided to try out my friend’s recipe for a pumpkin seed pie, which uses ground pumpkin seeds instead of flour for the crust. It’s made with 50 g of cacao mixed with 125ml of boiling water in one bowl and 150 g ground pumpkin seeds, a teaspoon of baking soda, salt, 3 eggs, 150 ml pumpkin seed oil and 150 g powdered sugar in the other bowl. Then you mix all of it together and bake it in the oven for about 40 minutes. You can top it with ice cream or whipped cream (or both) and mandatory strawberries, and it’s best if you leave it in the fridge for a while before eating.
#7: Roast beef with garlic and rosemary, oven-baked zucchini, toasted bread with herb butter, salad, ice cream and fancy tea
This next one was our first lunch out on the terrace this year! We had roast beef with oven-baked zucchini and toasted bread with homemade herb butter. We were planning to start our grill season, but then realised we’d forgotten to buy coal for the grill, so that plan failed. The lunch was great though, we also had apple ciders and ice cream for dessert.
The herb butter is super easy to make, all you need it a large chunk of softened butter, salt and lots of fresh herbs – I used parsley, mint, cilantro, basil, chives, green ends of spring onions, dill, garlic, rosemary and sage. You need to chop them as finely as possible and then mash the butter with the herbs and salt and leave it in the fridge to harden for a bit. Be forewarned though, it’s addictive and you’ll want to eat it with a spoon. Just garlic or sage butter is also really good, but I find it’s always necessary to add salt unless your butter already comes with salt (it doesn’t in Slovenia).
After lunch I decided to make a fancy-looking tea that I always drink in one of my favourite Ljubljana cafes. It’s super easy, all you need is a sprig of fresh mint, some pieces of fresh ginger and green tea, but it looks so pretty in a glass cup. You can also add lemon wedges, melissa leaves or honey or even skip the green tea if it’s not your thing.
#8: Pea cream soup with bread dumplings, parmesan and watercress
Next up we had a cream pea soup with parmesan, watercress and bread dumplings. I love pea soup and you can find me explaining about it here, but this time I tried something different, inspired by my friend’s new Instagram cooking blog: No smoothies please (go check her out). She gave me the idea to try bread dumplings in a soup, so I made them with leftover bread (bread dumplings are the best possible way to use leftover bread! see more here), coconut milk, cumin and mustard seeds. They turned out really nice, for some reason coconut milk and mustard seeds work well together and they worked even better with the pea soup.
#9: Bacon-wrapped asparagus with bread dumplings and salad
We also ate the same bread dumplings the next day, but this time with a butter sauce with dill, black pepper, mustard seeds and cumin, as well as bacon-wrapped asparagus spears. As you can see my asparagus weren’t exactly bacon wrapped, because my bacon pieces were to small, so I tied them around the asparagus with a string and baked them in the oven. We also had some salad with lettuce, radishes, parsley and tomatoes. I often like to use leftover pickle brine as salad dressing and I think this was one of those times, because pickle brine is actually surprisingly useful.
#10: Oven-baked seabass with spinach, roasted leeks and tomatoes and cauliflower-potato puree with tržaška sauce
Then we have fish delivery king food Exhibit C: awesome wild seabass. I made it in the oven with lemon wedges and summer savory herb stuffed in its belly, along with leeks, asparagus ends and tomatoes. We also had sauteed spinach with safflower and olive oil and mashed cauliflower potato puree, topped with what we call tržaška (Trieste) sauce here. It’s basically just lots of chopped garlic and fresh parsley tossed in a hot pan for a short while, with lots of olive oil. It’s popular as a sauce for seafood and even on pizzas for some reason.
#11: Fish soup with vegetables topped with roasted squid, focaccia bread and gin cocktails
I used the seabass head to make fish stock, so the next day we had a fish soup with tomatoes, leeks, onions, chard, garlic, carrots, parsley, bay leaves, rosemary, basil and black pepper, topped with roasted squid on olive oil. To go with it I made focaccia bread, a simple flat bread glazed with olive oil and topped with olives, rosemary, garlic and Tolminec aged hard cheese (you could easily use parmesan). Eating focaccia always makes me think of seaside summer and it’s a great side dish when you want something simple, but fancy at the same time.
That day we bought another bottle of our new favourite Limbay gin, so we had after lunch gin cocktails with tonic, lime, juniper berries and rosemary.
#12: Garlic butter appetisers, stuffed squid with sauteed Swiss chard and baked polenta
And Exhibit D: stuffed squid. I made us tiny toasted breads with garlic butter and fresh sage and then we had stuffed squid with baked polenta and sauteed Swiss chard with safflower, turmeric and spring onions. I stuffed the squids with a mix of fresh parsley, onions, garlic, Tolminec cheese, ground almonds, olive oil and egg and baked them in the oven. It was awesome, although I think I might skip the egg next time.
#13: Corn soup and cauliflower-chickpea falafel plate with hummus, tomatoes, lettuce and fermented rhubarb salsa
The following day I really felt like eating falafel, but didn’t want to get food delivery (although we had caved in a few times by then). So, I made my own falafel plate with a simple corn soup with scrap soup stock and spring onions.
I started by making tahini, which is super easy to make by blending sesame seeds and a flavourless oil (I used sunflower oil, see recipe here). Then I made proper old school hummus with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, paprika, cumin and olive oil (see recipe here). Next up were falafels, where I decided to improvise a bit. I made them a bit differently with half chickpeas and half cooked cauliflower, onions, garlic, tahini, parsley, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cardamom, chilli powder, baking soda, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and some white flour, because I didn’t have chickpea flour. They turned out beyond amazing out of the oven, served on lettuce salad and tomatoes with fermented rhubarb salsa. The addition of half cauliflower makes them fluffier and less heavy, which I loved – I usually feel so stuffed after eating falafel that it’s like an impending food coma. I really recommend you give it a go, it’s like a whole new falafel world.
#14: Fancy mac and cheese with peas and salad
And last but not least, my version of mac and cheese! Personally I’m a HUGE cheese lover and I’d be happy just eating the cheese without the macaroni, but my boyfriend has this absurd notion of “too much cheese”, so I experimented and ended up creating an amazing version of mac and cheese with peas. I used started garlic, peas and chopped leeks in a pan, which I roasted on butter, then added black pepper, coconut milk, mozzarella, parmesan, an egg white and white flour to thicken. The result was deliciously creamy, but still fresh due to the lime juice and black pepper and it is now one of my favourite recipes. Of course we also had salad with pumpkin seed oil to go with it.
So, we’ve made it to the end of another part of my lockdown lunch inspiration series. Since I’m writing these with a bit of a delay, Slovenia is no longer in lockdown by now, but there will nonetheless be another, final part 4, because I cooked the lunches while working at home, so I guess they will technically still count as lockdown. But anyways, these ideas can be used as lunch inspiration at any time, not just during lockdown. 🙂
I hope you liked my lunch ideas and that you’re now full of fresh lunch inspiration for your next meal. You can check out the #cookathome hashtag to see what other people have been creating at home and I also have all of these and a bit more saved as a highlight on my Instagram. Tag me if you cook something!
P.S.: At this point I have gained a bit of weight after eating so much, but I also finally started to regularly workout again, so it’s all good.