How to make the ultimate bento box

Packed lunches have never been this interesting

Words by Bec Dickinson

A homemade bento box is lunch in its rawest form, taking us back to its Japanese roots, where the art of compartmentalisation was mastered long before the lunch box graced our schoolbags.

Bento boxes don’t have a specific list of ingredients or quantities that they need to contain, leaving it open to the interpretations of you and your fridge. Here are some basic ingredient categories to help you get the most out of your bento box.

Grains and pulses

A chance to use up any leftover grains or get creative and cook some to suit the flavour combination you’re aiming for. Options include: wild rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, farro, pearl barley, spelt, soba noodles, lentils or millet.

Vegetables

These can be raw, cooked or a combination of both. Roasting a whole batch of vegetables and refrigerating them until needed is a great way to grab and go in the morning. This can include sweet potatoes, beetroot, squash, courgette and mushrooms. Raw vegetables can range from radishes, carrot and cucumber to shelled edamame beans.

Leafy greens

Another opportunity to be resourceful and scour the fridge. You can use anything – kale, rocket (arugula), spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, cabbage (red cabbage for more colour), lettuce or pak choi (bok choy)… the possibilities are endless.

Protein

To make a more sustaining lunch, add protein such as smoked salmon, tofu, egg, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), chicken or cheese.

Dressing and acidic hit

Add an extra zing with tahini, lemon juice, kimchi, pickled ginger, lime, miso dressing, herb yoghurt or sauerkraut.

Good fats

Bring some balance with avocado, nuts, seeds, chia, coconut oil, and nut butters.

Extra flavour and texture

Time to garnish up a storm. Fresh herbs, spices, soy sauce, are all at your disposal.

Extract from Love Your Lunches by Bec Dickinson (Hardie Grant £12.99)

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