Around the world in seven lunchboxes

FEBRUARY 1, 2016

It’s back to school time – and back to the lunchbox grind. Why not shake things up and take the lead from a few international flavours? There’s a whole world of lunchbox fillings to explore out there, packed with interesting, foreign flair and delicious combinations. Shake things up with these fabulous ideas:


Take a (basil) leaf out of Italian lunches by whipping up some lunchbox pizza rolls – simply roll out bread dough (you can usually buy this ready-made from a supermarket) or use ready-made pizza bases. Spread over a thin layer of tomato pasta sauce or pesto, then sprinkle over grated mozzarella cheese and dried herbs. Roll up and bake until golden and oozing. Cut slices of pizza roll for a flavourful lunchbox snack. For mini pizza rolls, try using Blue Ribbon Classic White Bread and flattening it with a rolling pin before adding the rest of the ingredients. Delicioso, we’d say.


The cuisine of Brazil is as varied as it is delicious, with African and American influences. A popular Brazilian street food that also works well for lunchboxes is elote, a boiled mielie coated with an array of delicious ingredients. Simply boil a mielie or sweetcorn until tender. Mix together mayo, grated cheese, butter, salt and sour cream, then spread over the mielie once it’s cooled. Wrap in cling film and pack as a yummy, healthy snack.


Take inspiration from a classic Ukrainian dish, blini, for a unique breaktime snack. These wholesome pancakes are served with smoked salmon or berries and cream cheese. Mix together cream cheese with a little honey and a drop of vanilla, then spread onto a pancake or flapjack. Top with thinly sliced strawberries or mixed berries and sandwich together (or roll up if you’re using pancakes). Wrap them tightly in cling wrap to make sure they stay fresh and soft until break time.


Fresh, punchy flavours abound in Mediterranean lunchboxes. Tomatokeftedes, a crispy tomato fritter, is a seriously delicious local delicacy – and great to make in advance for school lunchboxes. Mix together chopped tomato, onion, parsley, crushed feta and half a teaspoon of baking powder with enough flour to form a firm dough. Roll into balls and refrigerate for half an hour, then fry in hot oil until crispy. When cooled, pack into a Ziploc bag, along with a small tub of mayo for dipping.


Riisipuuro, or rice pudding, is a traditional Finnish dish that’s super easy to make and, if packed in an airtight container, makes for a great lunchbox sweet that’s much healthier than chocolate. Simply cook a cup of rice in full-cream or low-fat milk until it has a soft and creamy consistency (adding milk when needed), then add a small knob of butter and sprinkle of cinnamon. Top with some fresh or stewed mixed berries. Once cooled, pack into a small container, along with a spoon for a nutritious and filling treat.


Turkish cuisine is a delicious combination of Asian and Mediterranean foods. A common savoury treat, borek, is easy to make in advance for school lunchboxes. Mix together chopped boiled spinach with crumbled feta and some extra virgin olive oil, before spreading the mixture out onto a sheet of phyllo or puff pastry, and rolling up. Cut into smaller rolls and bake until crisp and golden.

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