Sometimes it’s not the fillings that children send home in their lunch boxes, it’s the bread that encases them. It wasn’t until she was in Year 8 that my daughter admitted that she hated sandwiches. “I want something that’s not boring!”, she said, but when pressed further, she said, “anything but bread!”
Anything but bread. Off the top of my head, that could include corn tortillas, rice paper sheets, lebanese bread, roti or chappatis, mountain bread, naan bread, crackerbreads, melba or bruschetta toasts (a long shot, I know), pizza bases (ditto), Afghani bread, pita or pocket breads. And that’s before we veer away from bread completely and use lettuce leaves, seaweed sheets, grape-vine leaves or cabbage leaves, to name but a few green wraps.
Thank goodness we have so many options available, all of them budget priced and readily available from supermarket shelves. You can also store many of these flatbreads, once you open the packet, either in airtight containers in the fridge, or in the freezer to help them last through the week.
When you make the wraps, it’s worth remembering that it’s best to heat up the bread to soften it before you roll it up. Cover it with clingwrap and heat for 30 seconds in a microwave, then add your ingredients and roll it up. Cut them in half for little hands to hold, then wrap them up tightly in clingwrap to help them hold their shape. It goes without saying that for very small children, you should make sure they can actually peel off the clingwrap before they start Big School. You’d be surprised how much food gets binned because they can’t unwrap their food.
Here then are twenty ideas for suitable fillings, which are of course interchangeable with the sandwich fillings provided last week. Please add your ideas in the comments below and share the love.
- HERBED CHICKEN SALAD Not every salad has to be soaking in mayonnaise and this is a good example of a light and tasty lunch option. Take some skinned chicken breast or chicken tenders and cook them in a pan until they’re brown. Put the cooked chicken in a bowl, shred it with two forks, then add diced tomato, sliced cucumber and a little red onion slices if you’re feeling brave. Sprinkle the mixture with a tablespoon of cider vinegar and some olive oil and some finely chopped mint, salt and a pinch of dried oregano. Stuff it all inside each half of your pita bread with some lettuce and you’re away.
- TURKEY AND PESTO Surprisingly good on a tortilla, you can mix shaved turkey slices with some bought pesto and a spoonful of softened cream cheese to take it further. Top with sliced tomato and roll it up tight. The tomato helps keep the tortilla from drying out before lunchtime.
- MEXICAN BEANS AND SALSA Use either a tortilla or mountain bread for this recipe and add a spoonful or two of refried beans or the bean mixture from this recipe. Top it with some grated tasty cheese, some shredded lettuce and either some salsa or guacamole. In other words, use up the leftovers from tonight’s mexican meal for tomorrow’s lunch. A guaranteed winner.
- MEAT-FREE BLT For the vegetarian teenager in your house who still hasn’t come to terms with tofu, something a little less exotic might appeal. Fill a pita bread with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, some grated carrot and a little salt. You may have to re-name it so it doesn’t include the B.
- HOMMOUS AND TABOULI As a university student I lived on this for four years and it never once felt boring or same-same. Rip some lebanese bread in half widthways and lay one layer over the other, then smear generously with garlicky hommous, some tabouli, roasted sliced tomatoes, onion rings, tasty cheese (0ptional), and some roasted capsicum if you are feeling very luxe. It’s best when it’s toasted, but still not a bad option served at room temperature.
- CHICKPEA AND MUSTARD Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and mash with a fork. Mix together with 2 tsp Dijon or American mustard, 2 tablespoons of mustard pickles and a grated carrot. Great with Afghani bread or Indian breads such as roti and chapatis
- PEANUT BUTTER, GRATED CARROTS AND SULTANAS This is very popular with young children and grated carrots mixed into peanut butter is easy to hide the taste of, but somehow makes the peanut taste sweeter. Those children with nut allergies will enjoy this combination mixed through some bottled cheese spread or ricotta instead. Top with some shredded lettuce if you want to feel really virtuous.
- CHICKEN AND SWEET CHILLI SAUCE Also popular with ham or salami or shredded turkey, mix some diced chicken with a spoonful of plain or greek yoghurt and some diced spring onion, plus a spoonful of sweet chilli sauce or mango chutney. Wrap it up in lebanese bread or pita pockets, but eat cold or at room temperature.
- BEAN SALAD You can use a generic can of four bean mix if you want, but try some of this bean salad recipe and top it with some tabouli, a spoonful of plain yoghurt and a scattering of mint leaves. Really enjoyable through warmer months and fantastic if you need a mid-afternoon power boost to your children’s energy levels, for example, on your way to after-school swim squad or gymnastics.
- PORK AND MUSTARD Wonderful with last night’s leftover pork, use a pocket bread or some cracker breads with some thinly sliced pork, a teaspoon or two of seeded mustard and some grated zucchini or cucumber.
- TURKEY, PINEAPPLE AND CREAM CHEESE This is very popular in America and to me it is very sweet, but then again, your children might eat it because of this. Mix a tablespoon of cream cheese or mayonnaise with finely diced turkey (sliced turkey from the deli is the cheapest), a spoonful of crushed pineapple or some finely diced fresh pineapple and a small stick of finely grated or diced celery. Good in a tortilla.
- CHICKEN AND AVOCADO A lunchtime variation on the popular chicken burritos we serve around here, there is nothing more coveted than taking the leftovers to school the next day. Oven bake some crumbed chicken tenders, place on some tortillas, add shredded lettuce, grated cheese, sliced avocado, and some sweet chilli sauce. You can thank me later.
- VEGIE RICE PAPER ROLLS Rice paper rolls are wonderful for people struggling with a gluten intolerance and as far as asian-accented flavour combinations go, you are limited only by your imagination when it comes to filling them. Soak rice paper sheets in hot water until they soften and lay them flat on a wooden board. Soak some rice vermicelli noodles in hot water, then drain them and cut them into short pieces and mix with grated carrot, shredded red cabbage, finely diced spring onions, some bean sprouts and a couple of mint leaves and coriander leaves. Top with some sliced pork or chicken if you want to include meat and roll them up tightly, tucking the ends in as you go. Sensational with a lime chilli dipping sauce, you can make these in advance and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
- ROAST LAMB AND BEETROOT RELISH Of all roasted meats, lamb is one of the strongest tasting and is not always popular in a plain sandwich the next day. The next time you have lamb roast leftovers, go via Lebanon and slice thick chunks of lamb onto lebanese bread, top with tabouli and a huge pile of beetroot relish, and even 1 or 2 roasted garlic cloves. Leftover lamb never looked so good.
- ROAST BEEF AND SALSA You can use tortillas or mountain bread for this, and the beef can be as rare and as thinly sliced as you want. Simply layer roast beef slices, some grated tasty cheese, your favourite salsa (try Pico de Gallo from this recipe) and some baby spinach leaves for a mouth-watering change.
- TIKKA CHICKEN AND RAITA When you get the chance and you see chicken drumsticks or thighs on special, buy a couple extra and treat yourself to this beautiful wrap filling. Marinate chicken pieces in one part Tandoori or Tikka Masala paste with two parts plain yoghurt overnight, then grill the chicken pieces until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is orange and slightly charred from the marinade. Shred the meat from the bones and lay on rotis or a heated naan bread with some shredded lettuce and some mint raita or mango chutney and wrap tightly.
- WALDORF SALAD AND CHICKEN Waldorf salad is improved immeasurably when chicken is added, but for a meat-free option, this salad combines crunch, texture and a ridiculously good flavour combination all on its own. Combine 1 finely diced celery stick with a grated Granny Smith apple – keep the skin on – a handful of roughly chopped walnuts and some seasonal grapes, together with some diced chicken and a spoonful or two of mayo. It’s delicious on crackerbread or bruschetta toasts.
- ITALIAN Perfect for pita or pocket breads, you can add any combination of vegetables you want to any choice of cold cut that you have, for example salami, mortadella, coppa or bresaola. Buy just a few slices at a time and store the meat slices between sheets of greaseproof paper in an airtight container and they will keep very well without getting shiny or smelly. But I digress – to your choice of cold cuts, add sun-dried tomatoes or roasted capsicum, a slice or two of grilled eggplant, some sliced black olives and a handful of grated mozzarella. This works very well if you are fortunate enough to work in an office that has a sandwich toaster so that you can warm it through and melt the cheese a little, but is also delicious at room temperature.
- LAMB AND TZATZIKI Useful on lebanese bread or in pita breads, you can add any lamb cuts you want including last nights lamb meatballs, but the trick is to give them a squirt of lemon juice as well. Top with plain yoghurt or some mint-flavoured labneh or tzatziki and a few slices of tomato. You can substitute the lamb for pork or beef leftovers as well. I’ve even been known to use up last night’s barbecued steak, thinly sliced across the grain. Fantastic.
- PARMESAN, PEAR AND ROCKET SALAD A variation on the classic salad combination, this is really very good in a tortilla. Perhaps it’s the light corn flavouring, but it works surprisingly well. Lay some washed and drained rocket leaves in the centre of the wrap. Toss slices of slightly firm pears in a combination of 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar and lay over the rocket, then sprinkle shaved or roughly grated parmesan on top. It tastes salty, peppery, sweet and vinegary all at once and the fibre content in this meal would make your dietician proud.