Lunch is an important part of any man's day, so shouldn't it also be one of the best? Opt out of takeout food and make your own awesome lunch at home with these essential tips from Ben Tish, top chef at the Salt Yard group, a collection of four London restaurants that specialize in Spanish food. An expert in cooked meats – he gets extremely worked up about ham – here he shows you how to make your packed lunch the envy of the office.
1. Cling film is the enemy.
“Don't wrap your sandwich in cling film, it will make it sweaty. Instead, wrap it in parchment paper, which will give it a deli feel and let the air circulate. You can bring your lunch to work in a Tupperware box, but I prefer a sturdy paper bag – again, it lets the sandwich breathe.”
2. Get saucy.
“I know it’s obvious, but I love mayonnaise, especially aioli, which is the really garlicky variety. You should always use butter on your sandwiches as it not only adds flavor and texture, but it prevents sogginess. Another great addition is onions in balsamic vinegar – just chop them up and they’ll add a sturdy base to your sandwich. Finally, mustard -- you can’t go wrong."
3. Upgrade your meat.
“You won’t get a finer ingredient than jamón ibérico, the daddy of all hams. It’s made in Spain and cured for at least four years, often five. It adds complex flavors that go from savory to sweet in one mouthful, and it's incredibly moist. Try it with manchego cheese, also from Spain. Another underrated ingredient is smoked fish: break up some peppered mackerel and serve it with watercress.”
4. Keep bread nice and simple.
“You might expect me to choose something really posh, but I think a really good sandwich loaf is hard to beat. A decent one that will hold everything together nicely. Another bread to try is sourdough, which I prefer to more fancy varieties you find in some delis. One thing to note: no matter what bread you use, a sandwich should be served at room temperature, never cold. You can put it in the fridge at work, but take it out 20 minutes before you eat it. It’ll taste much better.”
5. No bread? No problem.
“Some people don’t want to eat too much bread, so if you’re looking for an alternative to the sandwich, try a tortilla, or Spanish omelette. Just make it the night before, adding sweated onions, chorizo or sweet potatoes, and you’ll have something you can easily eat at work. As it’s firm, just snap a bit off and you’re done.”
6. Find the right spot to eat.
“Some people think you shouldn’t eat at your desk, but it doesn’t bother me. As my job involves rushing between restaurants, then it’s quite relaxing to just sit there, have a chat and look at stuff online. But ideally, it’s good to get away from your desk at some time. Go for a walk before you eat, you’ll enjoy it more when you come back.”
7. You get what you pay for (mostly).
“The key to a decent packed lunch is the same as for any meal: decent ingredients. Spend some money and your sandwich is going to taste better and be better for you in the long run. There are loads of shops where you can get great ingredients.”