Thursday, November 3, 2011

Seven lunch alternatives to the sandwich

One of the things - actually, probably *the* thing - I miss most as a Coeliac is lovely, fresh, soft bread on sandwiches.

Gluten free breads are getting better and better, yes, to the point where several of them are somewhat palatable, even if, let's be frank, they're still at their best toasted. (I'm currently eating Black Ruby's bread and Schar's part-baked ciabattine rolls quite regularly).

I haven't yet found a real replacement, taste, texture, and sensation wise, for fresh wheat bread, though. So instead of trying to replicate my onetime fixation on sandwiches as lunch fare, I decided quite some time ago to abandon that and instead find alternatives to eat for lunch.

I have developed a few favourites! Here are my 7 best non-sandwich options for a tasty gluten free lunch.

1. Vietnamese-style rice paper rolls

These fresh-tasting, delicious uncooked spring rolls are a favourite for picnic lunches for me, as they can be prepared the day before and transport well. I don't follow a recipe as such - I just use the rice papers (you can buy them in most supermarkets these days) and some rice vermecelli noodles, and fill them with any combination of grilled chicken, prawns, cucumber, carrots, bean shoots, lettuce, shallots ... whatever takes my fancy. Mint is an essential component of these, which, thankfully, my garden provides. They're delicious with a dipping sauce - I mix rice wine vinegar with a little sweet chilli sauce.

2. Soups of all kinds

Especially in winter, I am a great fan of soup-making. The process of making mahoosive batches which can then be frozen is one I really enjoy, and the kids enjoy helping with it too. We have lots of favourite soups (I'm slurping my way through a bowl of sweet potato & leek soup as I write this!) but an all-time winner is this lamb & vegetable soup recipe, an old one of my mother's that I've adapted to be gluten free.


2 Lamb shanks
1 stick celery
1 large carrot
1 large turnip
1 large onion
2 handfuls of yellow split peas
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 can tomato soup
1 heaped tablespoon gluten free all purpose flour

Dice all veges quite small, put in large pot with lamb shanks, peas, salt, sugar, soup and flour and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 hours.
Remove shanks from pot and then remove meat from shanks, cut into small bits and put meat back into pot to stir well together.

3. Frittata

If one isn't egg-allergic (I'm not) or lactose-intolerant (not that either), frittata can be a delicious, rich-tasting lunch for adults and children alike. My kids will eat frittata hot, straight from the oven, but don't fancy it cold. I, on the other hand, love it cold and it has become something of a lunchtime staple for me.

Here's the recipe I use for frittata; it's extremely simple, and it freezes really well (or keeps in the fridge for about a week). I make a frittata about once a month or so and it then provides about 10 lunch-sized portions.


Frittata Base
7 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup cream
½ cup grated parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste

½ cup grated tasty cheese

Variation ingredients

Spanish frittata
1 x large red onion, sliced
2 x large potatoes, sliced and parboiled until just softening
3 x cloves of garlic, minced

Method: Layer sliced potato and red onion in frittata / quiche pan, then mix garlic into frittata mixture and pour over sliced ingredients, shaking pan to make sure it spreads out evenly over all ingredients. Sprinkle tasty cheese over top, then cover with foil. Into 180 degree oven for 25-30 mins. Remove foil and return to oven for 5 mins or so to lightly brown the top. Test centre is set with a skewer. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Frittata Lorraine
1 cup diced bacon, lightly sautéed
½ cup mushrooms, sliced and lightly sautéed
1 cup cooked spinach (I use baby spinach but I reckon the regular kind would work too)

Method: As above, but ensure there is no spinach on the top. (It burns!)

Roasted vegetable frittata
220g pumpkin
220g potato
220g sweet potato
70g mushrooms, sliced
1 brown onion, diced & lightly fried
Cup of peas (frozen are fine)

Cube & roast top three veg in a pan in the oven. When soft, add to sautéed mushies & onion and follow previous steps. (Peas can be added frozen).

4. Warm and cold salads

Salads are not just a summer food, although we do eat them more in the summer. If I have guests for lunch, I often make my roast vegetable & bacon warm salad, which is one of my husband's favourite meals of all time.


1 lettuce (I use rocket leaves or a cos lettuce)
1 potato, 1 sweet potato, and some pumpkin (amount variable)
2 rashers of bacon
2 tomatoes
1 red capsicum (optional)
Any sharp-tasting cheese - I have used fetta, blue, or even fried haloumi
Handful of pitted kalamata olives (optional)
(For dressing) Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and seeded mustard

Dice the vegetables into rough cubes, then season and roast them in an oven pan coated with olive oil.

While they are cooking, chop the lettuce and toss it with the tomatoes (cut into rough chunks), the olives if using them, and the cheese (if using haloumi, fry it first).

In a frypan, lightly fry the bacon, diced into large cubes, and the capsicum, cut into strips.

When the vegetables are cooked, add them to the lettuce with the bacon and capsicum. Dress with olie oil mixed with balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of seeded mustard.

5. Quick curries

Sometimes I have an unconquerable urge for something a bit weighty for lunch, that will sit in my stomach for hours. In these instances, if I'm at home and the kids co-operate, I'll often spend 15 minutes cooking myself a green curry. I cheat, using the Valcom curry paste that you can buy in the shops, and tinned coconut milk. I do know how to make curry paste from scratch, but it's a safe bet that I'll have neither the time nor the ingredients to do this every time I fancy a hot lunch.

6. Leftovers!

Ahhhh, leftovers. Enough said. The salvation of many a hungry tummy at lunchtime :-)

I plan all my meals to provide at least one portion over now to build in the leftover lunch.

7. Potato pancakes with applesauce or sour cream

I recently discovered the simplicity and fried deliciousness that is potato pancakes (latkes) with applesauce or sour cream. I've been making these as a side dish for family dinners and the kids adore them, but I also really enjoy them for lunch. (I'm still fiddling around with recipes to find the perfect one, but I'll add it when I get it just right).

If you are a non-sandwich-luncher by choice or necessity, do you have go-to options to eat? I'd love any new ideas!

This post is part of NaBloPoMo. 3 down, 27 to go!


  1. some great ideas there.

  2. Love this post! I have just been getting into rice paper rolls - especially when we have some cooked chicken drumsticks left in the fridge. I'm keen on your latke idea - anything with applesauce is my friend. Applesauce is my friend. But my FAVOURITE is number four - that salad sounds sublime...

  3. I LIKE these ideas. I need to make rice paper rolls more often methinks.

  4. I like these ideas and think Annie would enjoy the spanish frittata added to her school lunches. She often has zucchini slice but is getting sick of the sameness of it.