Scrambling around in the kitchen like a headless chicken during the wee hours of day is a thing of the past. Today, wholesome tiffins can, and do come together in a cinch. Mummies are a lot more savvy and really know how to bring their A game to the Tupperware. No, this does not mean that leftovers get left behind, they just don a whole new outfit and get ready to shine when the lids come off. Needless to say, my recipe ideas for this feature are very easy and I’ve even thrown in quite a bit of store-bought stuff to speed things up. Mix and match the tiffin ideas to your fussy eater’s requirements, declutter your refrigerator on priority before starting on something from scratch, invest in good sandwich bags or ziplock bags, the list goes on really. I’ll try to include as many hacks as possible below.
Box 1 includes Ribbon Sandwich stars, shards of Mixed Khakra instead of chips, store-bought cake and a juicebox. The ribbon sandwiches are made of three layers- the first is a tomato and cumin sauce, the second is a coriander and coconut chutney made sweet with dates and raisins and the final layer is whipped hung curd, carrots and lots of pepper. I suggest making these a day in advance as they keep well in the refrigerator and cut better if they’ve spent a bit of time chilling. The star-shaped cookie moulds are easy to procure, and I’ll often eat all the leftover edges once the stars are packed and ready to go. Got some extra filling? Use the chutney as a dip for crudités, the tomato sauce is great to start off a small portion of spag, just throw in some fresh herbs and seasonings. The hung curd layer, I can spoon all by itself.
Box 2 is a snack box. It has Roasted Makhana, also known as foxnut, phool patasha or lotus seeds, Dates, and a bunch of Veggie Batons served with two dips– a light, yet creamy Spinach and yoghurt dip that’s spiked with garam masala, and the other, a cheesy, slightly heavy, Sriracha jalapeño dip. Pack a banana, some Yakult, the probiotic drink and a sweet little something for later- that’s it!
Box 3 is a loaded one. There’s a Macaroni Salad in a jar served with a lunchbox of Fruit skewers, Pomegranate seeds and Hello Panda biscuits. I know that jar salads are trendy right now so I’ve gone with it, but trust me, this is one of those salads that gets better as it sits in the refrigerator, so feel free to make this a day or more in advance, if you like.
Box 4 is my favourite box. It has a Potato and paneer wrap made using chapatis from the night before and a Spicy-sweet-salty trail mix of seeds, popcorn and puffed rice that was inspired by a new cookbook I’m obsessed with- Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly. Throw in a fruit or two, and you’re good to go.
Box 5 has a Purple cabbage slaw with nachos in it, plump and juicy cherry tomatoes, digestive biscuits topped with a chocolate spread and finished with the amount of almonds you want your kid to be consuming everyday. A pot of yoghurt and some juice works well here.
Sandwich bread 8 slices
The Curd Filling
Greek-style dahi 150g
Carrots 1/2 cup, finely grated
Mustard powder 1/2 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste
The Tomato Sauce
Tomatoes 2, medium-sized
Sweet Paprika 1/2 tsp
Ketchup 2 tsp
Cumin powder 1/4 tsp
Coconut 1/4, grated
Coriander leaves 1/2 bunch
Black peppercorns 6
Green chillies 3-4
Garlic 3 cloves
Ginger 1/2- inch piece
Lime juice 1 tsp, or more to taste
For the curd filling, hang the greek yoghurt in a muslin cloth and leave it for about half an hour for the whey to drain. Add the carrots, mustard powder and salt to this and whip. Keep it refrigerated until use.
For the tomato sauce, blanch the tomatoes, then press it through a strainer to strain the pulp. We want a smooth end result. In a processor, whiz the onion together with a pinch of cumin powder. In a saucepan, combine both the strained tomato pulp and this onion mixture, then reduce it over low heat till thickened. Refrigerate till use.
For the chutney paste, combine all the above ingredients except for the lime juice in a grinder till smooth. Add the lime juice, adjust the salt and keep refrigerated till use.
Butter the bread and layer them with the sauces to get three layers, using four bread slices. Chill the finished sandwiches for at least half an hour. They’ll keep well overnight.
Makhana 1 1/2 cup
Oil 2 tsp
Turmeric powder 2 pinches
Red chilli powder 1/4 tsp
Sambhar powder or chaat masala 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
In a kadai, heat the oil and add the makhana to it. Reduce the heat to low and let it roast for about ten minutes till it crisps up. Add in the dry spice powders and toss till the makhanas are well coated. Taste for salt.
Veggie Batons with Two Dips
Cucumber 1, cut into juliennes
Carrot 1, cut into juliennes
Yellow Bell pepper 1, cut into long strips
Spinach and yoghurt dip
Blanch one bunch of spinach in a deep pan until wilted. Fish it out and run it under cold water, then squeeze out the excess liquid. In a pan with some hot oil, cook together 4 cloves worth of minced garlic, a 1-inch sized piece of ginger and 2 chopped green chillies. Once the garlic begins to brown, transfer these to a food processor together with the blanched spinach. Add in 1 cup of Greek-style yoghurt, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp lemon juice, lots of cracked black pepper and 1 tsp salt. Blitz it all together and taste.
Sriracha Jalapeno Cheese Dip
In a processor, blend together 1/2 cup mayonnaise with one pink onion and 1 tsp Sriracha. Add to this 1/2 cup of extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used Kodai cheese) and 1/4 cup jalapeños. Pulse to combine again and refrigerate for an hour before serving.
The Family Favourite Macaroni Salad
Elbow Macaroni 1/2 packet
Corn 1 packets of kernels or 1 cup
Capsicum or green bell pepper 1, chopped into small squares
Cucumber 2, medium-sized, chopped into small squares
Red bell pepper 1, chopped into small squares
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to toss
Coriander 1 bunch, 3/4 cup chopped
Green chillies 3, seeds in if you like it spicy
Mustard sauce 1 tbsp
Garlic 5 cloves
Lime 1, juiced, or more to taste
Olive oil a few teaspoons to emulsify
Salt 1 tsp
Blitz together the dressing ingredients, using some olive oil to blend everything into a slightly chunky pesto-consistency dressing. Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions, drain them and drizzle over some oil to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Microwave corn kernels in a bowl of water covered for 3 minutes. Drain the kernels after they’re done and set aside. Toss together the chopped bell pepper, elbow macaroni and corn together briefly using your hands, then add the salad dressing and toss again. Keep refrigerated for at least half an hour before serving.
Potato and Paneer Wrap
Makes 3 wraps
Potato 1 large, boiled
Cumin seeds 1 tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Green chilli 1, chopped
Amchoor powder 1 tsp
Coriander leaves 1/4 cup, chopped
Salt a pinch
Leftover rotis 2-3
Tomato 1, sliced into rounds
Onions a few long slices
Mash the boiled potato together with the paneer and set aside. Dry roast some cumin seeds quickly in the microwave and add them to the potato and paneer mash, then add in the dry masalas and chopped green chillies. Add the amchoor powder, salt and the coriander leaves and mix everything well. Divide this mixture into two to three long patties and sear on a hot tawa with some oil till browned on each side. Roll this up with sliced tomatoes, onions, Indian lettuce, season again if necessary and eat.
The Spicy-Sweet-Salty Trail Mix
Plain microwave popcorn 1 packet
Puffed rice 2 cups
Salted butter 100g
Granulated sugar or brown sugar 1 cup
Corn syrup 1/4 cup (if you don’t have Corn syrup, don’t buy some specially for this recipe. Just up the sugar by 1/4 cup)
Soy sauce 2 tbsp
Baking soda 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Cream of tartar 1/4 tsp
Mixed seeds of your choice 1 1/2 cup (I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
Sesame seeds 2 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 110g degrees celsius and line a baking tray.
Cook the popcorn as per the packet instructions. Then in a very large bowl, combine the puffed rice and the popcorn together.
Over a medium flame, melt the butter and add in the sugars. Stir constantly till it turns a deep golden, for about five minutes. Stir in the soya sauce, baking powder, chilli powder, cream of tartar and pour this over the popcorn and puffed rice mix. Stir in the nuts and mix everything together well. Spread this mixture out onto the baking tray and let it sit in the oven for 1 hour or till it is dry and has stuck to one another. Break this up and serve. It goes soft quickly but it won’t be around for long.
Purple Cabbage Slaw With Nachos
Purple cabbage 1 head, sliced
Carrots 2 cut into matchsticks
Coriander leaves a whole bunch
Jalapeno chillies a handful, chopped
Red Onion 1 large, sliced
Limes 3, juiced
Store-bought nachos 1 small packet
Extra virgin olive oil for tossing
To assemble the salad, pile up the purple cabbage and carrots in a bowl. You can also throw in a few seasonal veggies, some radish or asparagus too if you like. Add in a good few tablespoons of oil to toss it.
Be generous with the onion, lime juice and chilli. Season with salt to taste, and then my favourite bit- upturn a bag full of nachos over the salad and serve or pack.