How To Cook Guerilla-Style Gourmet Meals At Work

Let’s be real – we all know the best thing about your average workday is the lunch hour. Sixty blissful minutes of stretching your legs (you’d better not be eating at your desk), being able to watch unlikely animal friendships on YouTube rather than just thinking about them – and food, glorious food.

The problem is, lunch at work tends to either be extravagant and expensive – when you end up going out to cafés every day, or rather boring – when slightly stale Vegemite sandwiches are the only thing you can throw together. Not that there’s anything wrong with our fine upstanding national spread, but seriously – you can do better than that.

Frying bacon with an iron isn’t exactly discreet or easy, so if you feel the desire to cook up something scrumptious and a little fancy guerilla-style at work, here are some easy ways. Wilted spinach and repetitive tins of tuna be gone.

#1 Eggs three ways

If Natalie Tran can do it, so can you. You know those old-style coffee pots where you put the water on top and the coffee in the glass pot? It works for eggs too – chuck some water in the top, your eggies at the bottom and voilà – soft-boiled eggs in no time at all, and a perfect addition to any salad or popped on some toast.

eggs coffee maker

Image: flickr

Scrambled and poached eggs are easily made in the microwave, too. To poach, gently crack an egg into a cup of hot water, making sure you keep it in one piece. Cover with a plate or lid, place it to the side inside the microwave, and nuke it for 30 seconds. If it’s not completely cooked, leave the lid on and let it sit for a minute.

For a scramble, just mix together eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl. Microwave that concoction for 30-45 seconds, then give it a stir for that scrambled texture and microwave it again. Piping hot and just begging to be thrown on some toast, you’ll have a full meal before the rest of your workmates have even left their desks.

#2 Poach salmon like a pro 

You don’t need a single Michelin Star to make a fancy poached salmon meal (to go with your coffee pot-boiled egg, no less) at work. It’s almost laughably simple:
1. Pop a small piece of fish in a bowl or glass container with whatever seasoning you like.
2. Pour boiling water over said fish, (add a miso soup sachet if you’re feeling extra-fancy) and be sure to cover it with water by about an inch.
3. Cover tightly with aluminium foil or lid, and leave for 10-12 minutes.

That’s it. You’re done, and you’re eating tasty, perfectly-poached salmon without having to leave the kitchen.

#3 Kettle Soup

Think soup involves stock, blenders and a whole lot of slow cooking? Think again, amigos – that office kettle is a godsend for guerilla cooking. With a bit of boiling water and a heatproof container, you’ve got yourself a hearty meal in no time, it’s perfect for those chillier months and, because it’s made and eaten in the same container, so easy to wash up too.

chickpea kettle soup

Chickpea kettle soup from The Stone Soup. Image: Jules flickr

Essentially, you need something to act as a base: chickpeas, cous cous, tinned lentils and tuna are all good choices, some fresh veg chopped up small so they cook quicker, and some seasoning for your soup – soy sauce, stock, curry powder, miso paste –which gives the dish its flavour. With all those ingredients dumped in your Tupperware, simply pour your boiled water on top, replace the lid and leave for 5-10 minutes so the ingredients can drink up some of the water and temper a little, and the elixir of life has done the cooking for you. Onya, Mother Nature.

#4 ‘Bake’ a potato in the microwave

Sometimes we all need a hefty dose of carbs to get us through that 3pm desk slump, and there’s nothing more filling or satisfying than a good old potato (or sweet potato, for that matter).

Grab the tater and plop it in a bowl about half filled with water. Poke some deep holes in the potato with a fork (but not all the way through!) and microwave it for 5-7 minutes. Then, flip the potato and do it again. You should be able to easily pull your fork in and out of the now soft potato – and if not – give it another couple of minutes.

Then just pull that baby out, pop on some salt, butter or sour cream and your favourite toppings like baked beans, coleslaw or cheese and you’re sorted: a scrumptious spud done quick.

#5 Salad-in-a-jar

Healthy snack or meal - Chickpea salad with black beans, parsley and feta cheese tossed in an olive oil and lemon dressing served in mason jar with sweet potato crackers

Jalad life.

If you’re organised enough the night before then we have one (made up) word for you: Jalad! They may look like an insufferably hipster way to transport food, but there’s a lot of sense to packing your salad in layers in a mason jar, as Masterchef alumnus Alice Zaslavsky told us. Start with your dressing at the bottom of the jar, then proteins in the middle – your meat, eggs, tofu, whatever you like – and follow up with your veggies, then any extras like croutons or cheese. Not only can you pour it onto a plate and have a perfectly arranged salad, but it’ll keep itself crisp and not a pile of wet, green sludge no matter how late you end up sneaking out for your lunch break.

Matilda is a British-Australian-French freelance writer. She has flat-packed IKEA furniture in London and Melbourne, and no idea what’s coming next. She’s written for The Guardian,FasterLouder, mX and Grazia, and really likes hot chocolate.

Lead image: Trader Joes