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The kids are back to school. Finally. And if your household is anything like mine you’ll be going all out on school lunches, really going hard on the gourmet, awe inspiring lunch boxes for the first half of the term and then just throwing Vegemite sandwiches and an apple at them as the race out the door, for the second half. But then again, I’ve got two recipes that can be whipped up in less than half an hour each and will keep the kids happily well fed Monday through to Friday, and you safe in the knowledge that their lunch is cheap and nutritious.

I know that some kids aren’t adventurous with food, and my daughter was the dullest with food choices until she was around 10. My son, on the other hand was eating laksa at 2, and hummus at 4. Most kids find a choice of smaller foods more interesting, and what’s cooler than a picnic right? I’ve found that even my fussy daughter will polish off her lunch box if the food is bright, familiar to her, and tasty. Don’t get me wrong, we do love a good vegemite sandwich on fresh white bread, who doesn’t, but let’s face it, it’s not that nutritious. Packing a lunch box with homemade hummus, crackers/corn chips/fresh bread, cut up veggies, a few homemade cookies and a piece of fruit will not only guarantee the kids will clean out their lunch boxes, but will also assuage that good ole feeling of parental guilt over packing that frowned upon staple, the squishy white bread sandwich, twice a week.

Homemade Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (a medium sized lemon will give you this much juice, but it will come down to how lemony you like your hummus)
  • 1/4 cup tahini (all supermarkets stock tahini these days, so it’s easy to find)
  • 1 small garlic clove, (minced garlic is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons tap water
  • a pinch of sweet paprika, or sumac as I like to use

Add the tahini and lemon juice to the small bowl of your food processor. Blitz this until it’s really smooth and creamy, you may have to scrape down the sides a few times. Don’t be too concerned if you feel that the tahini is seizing up, this is normal and the liquid from the lemon juice will usually fix this issue.

Then add the chickpeas, garlic, EVOO, cumin, a inch of salt and blitz these until you have a smooth paste. You will need to add water a TB at  a time to get your desired consistency. Your hummus should be the thickness of peanut butter, but again, your personal preference will dictate how thick you like your hummus.

Check for seasoning at this stage, you might like to add more salt, or lemon juice, cumin or oil. Taste until you have it the way you like it. The extra EVOO and paprika certainly aren’t required for the kids lunch boxes, but is mandatory for that Instagram photo. I add whatever crusty bread that’s in my breadbox (and we’re carb fiends in this house, so this weekend we had a fresh ciabatta from Bakers Delight, but a sourdough from their new Artisan range would be perfect). The kids choose their own vegetables for dipping, my son usually likes mini cucumbers and carrots. My daughter loves good old Cruskits with hers.

Do you remember the days when we used to have cornflake biscuits? How good were they? Did you know that the old school biscuits from the 80’s are back? I don’t know about you, but there is always a cup or two of cornflakes left at the bottom of the cereal container that the kids just refuse to eat? What is with that? They move on to the Crunchy Nut or the Milo cereal without a care, choosing to ignore the remaining cornflakes, which just sit there until they go stale. Well, this recipe uses up those leftover cornflakes, and it’s gluten and dairy free too. Which is a bonus if you’re after a sweet treat without those two items. You will have leftover egg yolks, but I freeze these for the next time I need to make a hollandaise sauce or a quick custard.

Coconut Cornflake Cookies

  • 3 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup castor sugar (you can reduce this if you want, the coconut does provide extra sweetness)
  • zest of one lemon (zest your lemon before you juice it for the hummus, and you’ve killed two birds with one lemon)
  • 2 cups cornflakes
  • 2 cups desiccated coconut (shredded coconut will also work)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Pre-heat your oven to 180, but when the biscuits go in, turn it down to 160 immediately. These biscuits will remain crispy on the outside and a little fudgey on the inside if you cook them like a pavlova.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. On low speed add the rest of the ingredients until all combined. Be gentle at this stage as the only raising agent in these biccies are the egg whites,so you need to ensure they remain light and fluffy.

Have two large baking trays prepped with baking paper, and put tablespoons of the mixture 3 across, as they tend to spread a little on cooking. Cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. When they’re cooked, they’ll be crispy to touch but will still have a little give. It’s probably best to undercook these than overcook, as they will harden when stored for a couple of days.

Leave to cool on the trays, if you can’t help yourself, these are delicious warm. Store for around 5 days in a container in the pantry, not in the fridge, as these are technically a meringue of sorts.

I have no wine matches for these recipes this month 🙂

Happy Back to School mums and dads!

Fran

The Food and Wine Marshall