13 September 2007

Lunch Box Solutions

Weekday mornings are all about lunch boxes. Before the school bus drives up to our doorstep, I need to get my daughter's lunch-box (or Obento) ready. Getting a lunch box ready is not that much of an issue. What's really needed is an obento that my daughter is sure to like.

If that didn't tell you what the problem is, then allow me to elucidate. The little darling is a picky eater. Very picky. Most days we have this early morning battle over the planned lunch. She takes one look at what I'm cooking, and asks, "Is that cute? I want a cute obento." No, I have no clue what a cute obento is. Depending on her mood, it could be anything from crispy potato rolls, to spaghetti to dal-and-rice. Depends on her mood, the tides, phase of the moon, and anything else you'd care to throw into the mix.

One simple fix is Pooris. Pooris are always a hit with kids. Little ones and big ones. To add to the 'cute' factor, I roll out a really large poori, and cut out smaller ones before I fry them. Using a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter, it adds up to around 2 regular pooris.

My daughter liked these tiny pooris so much that she prefers them to regular sized pooris. I'm certainly not complaining. The potato curry for this one is stripped down to absolute basics.

Very Simple Potato Curry

1 medium potato (chopped fine)
1 small onion (chopped fine) (optional)
1 tsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch turmeric
1 pinch hing
Salt to taste

Heat oil. Temper with mustard, hing and turmeric.
Add onions, if using, and saute till onions turn transperent.
Add potatoes and salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or till done.

Add some fruit, and lunch is ready to go!

Chappatis for lunch turned out be another challenge. The little gourmet wanted small chappatis. And then the real fun started. I rolled out a really huge chappati, and with a 'katori' cut out smaller disks. I started off cooking 4 or 5 at a time on my tava. I was about then I asked myself that all important question. How on earth am I supposed to fluff these tiny things over an open flame? My tongs would surely tear them up. And my fingers had way too much to do over the course of the day, so using them was out. One fell right through my little wire phulka frame. Necessity breeds solutions. I put my little tea insufer to good use. It was tiny enough to hold one tiny corner while I fluffed them over an open flame.

And after all that early morning drama, the lunch box came back totally empty! At the end of the day, thats all that counts. Whether it was it all eaten up.

On a recent festival, I thought it was really unfair that the little one missed out on the multi-course lunch. She could always have some when she got back from school, but why not AT school? And a typical south Indian lunch is not that difficult to make into an obento.

Dal-rice with ghee, crisp urad-dal vadais, tomato salad, carrot salad, cabbage curry and fruit. Next time I need to figure out how to pack payasam so that it doesn't spill.

Uninspired mornings sometimes breed inspired solutions. In a totally bored frame of mind, I made a little potato curry, and stared stupidly into my fridge and freezer, and wondered what to do. Should I make rice, chappati, poori?? Should I just give up and go back to sleep? And then I saw some frozen puff-pastry sheets in a corner of the freezer. And came up with this. I have no idea what to call this, so go right ahead and name it. Be my guest.


1 sheet puff pastry (20cm x 10cm x 0.5cm)
1 cup potato filling (recipe follows)

1 large potato (chopped very fine)
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 pinch turmeric
1 tsp oil
salt to taste

Heat oil.
Add the spice powders, and stir for a few seconds, and immediately add the chopped potato.
Add salt to taste. Cover and cook for 10 mins, or till done.
Preheat oven to 175C.
Thaw puff pastry, and roll to 2mm thickness.
Spread prepared filling over it.
Shape into a roll. Cover roll with cling-film and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Line a cookie sheet with baking paper.
Cut into slices. Arrange on sheet, leaving 2-3 cms between rolls.
Bake until golden brown. About 12-15 minutes.

Next time I want to try a grown up version of this, with some garam masala, and chilli powder. Lets see how that works.


Srivalli said...

very nice ones..each one looks very exciting..

Asha said...

I wish I was your kid!!:)
Here in NC, they don't allow any home cooked food unless it's sandwiches.Kids eat at school cafe.

marriedtoadesi.com said...

Wow, those are some amazing lunch boxes. When we were growing up, it was so tough having a lunch that looked different from other kids, and my mom would lovingly pack idly and send with us, slathered with milagaipodi or dosai or chapathi etc. It would accompany us BACK home, and my siser and I would devise ways to rid ourselves of the evidence left from the uneaten lunches. So sad, and all that hard work my mom put into it. All we wanted was peanut butter sandwiches and bagels! How boring.

I'm so fascinated that kids these days are all going to school with varied lunches, including the western kids. Its so different from when I was growing up here.

Your lunches seem awesome, and I know I would have loved eating them as a child too. Your kids are lucky their mom has time to get up and make poori and chapathi for them. Really lucky!! I feel so bad that my sister and I did not appreciate my mom's hard work!


Vidya said...

Thanks Srivalli, Kanchana...

Asha, the school cannot cater to a vegetarian. So I send lunch everyday!

MR said...

love ur thingie!!
Planning to make for my son's lunch box tomo...

Coffee & Vanilla said...

Hi Vidya,

Thank you for your entry. Wholesome Lunchbox event has been extended to monthly event... I'm collecting entires till 15th of each month so your post will be in this month round-up :)


Have a good day, Margot