Nena Foster's recipes for kids' packed lunches


Courgette, olive and halloumi muffins

A savoury muffin that works in a lunchbox, as a grab-and-go breakfast or a nutritious, filling snack. Pictured with apple, plain popcorn and chocolate-dipped apricots (melt 50g dark chocolate with 1 tsp coconut oil, dip in dried apricots halfway and transfer to a tray lined with greaseproof paper until set).

Prep 10 min
Cook 20 min
Makes 6

100g wholegrain spelt flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 pinch sea salt
100g Greek-style yoghurt (or thick, non-dairy yoghurt)
2 tsp olive oil
1 egg, or 1 flax “egg” (ie, 1 tbsp milled flaxseed soaked in 2½ tbsp water or milk)
100g courgette, grated
40g spinach, shredded
75g halloumi, grated
30g black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Zest of ½ lemon
1 handful chopped dill (optional)

Heat the oven to 200C/180C (fan)/390F/gas 6 and grease or line a muffin tin (or use a silicone one, so you don’t have to do either).

Whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl together to combine and make a well in the centre. Tip the wet ingredients into the well, mix to combine, then add the vegetables, halloumi, olives, lemon zest and dill, if using, and mix again until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin holes to fill, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden.

Beetroot falafel(ish) and whipped tahini wraps

An earthy twist on a classic. Combining beetroot with wholegrain or bulgur wheat (or buckwheat groats, if you’re going for a gluten-free version), crosses slightly over into kofte territory, but helps to make these super-nutritious, filling and delicious. The recipe makes a fair few, so you may wish to freeze some for a later lunchbox. Pictured above with chopped salad (radish, tomato, cucumber, a pinch of sumac, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil), a clementine and tamari-toasted pumpkin seeds (toast a handful of pumpkin seeds in a pan and, when they start to pop, add a drizzle of tamari, toss to coat and transfer to a plate to cool).

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Prep 10 min
Cook 25 min
Makes 14-16

For the falafel
60g bulgur wheat (or 70g buckwheat groats)
175g beetroot (or carrot), skin on and washed
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried
½ small red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp sumac
Sea salt and black pepper
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp baking powder

7 tbsp (25g) coriander, parsley or a mix of both, leaves and soft stems roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

For the tahini sauce
60ml tahini
50ml water
2 tsp lemon juice
½ garlic clove
, minced
A pinch of sea salt

Bring 275ml water to a boil, then add the bulgur wheat and simmer for five to seven minutes, until it absorbs all the water . Cover and leave to sit for five minutes until cooked completely, then leave to cool.

Grate the beetroot directly on to a few sheets of kitchen paper or a tea towel, then wrap up and squeeze out the excess liquid into a small bowl (you should get a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of liquid – save this for your next smoothie or juice).

Put all the falafel ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse, then scrape down the sides and repeat a few more times until you have a coarse paste. Scoop out a heaped tablespoon of the falafel mixture, form it into a ball, then flatten to a disc and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Repeat with the remaining falafel mixture, then transfer the falafel tray to the freezer to firm up for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7.

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Drizzle a little olive oil over the falafel then bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove the tray, flip over the falafel and bake for 10 more, until crisp and slightly golden on both sides.

Meanwhile, whisk all the tahini ingredients until thick and creamy (if doing so by hand, add the liquid in small amounts).

Serve the falafel on a wholegrain wrap (I like Crosta & Mollica’s wholeblend flatbreads) with the tahini sauce and a chopped tomato, cucumber and radish salad.

Parmesan fingers with pea and pumpkin seed hummus

Pictured above with crudités, pear and a date caramel sandwich (chop 75g pitted medjool dates, blend to a paste with a quarter-teaspoon of vanilla extract, a tablespoon and a half of milk and two teaspoons of maple syrup, then sandwich between two oatcakes).

Prep 10 min
Cook 15 min
Serves 3-4

4 thick slices wholegrain sourdough, cut into 2cm fingers
Olive oil
20g parmesan or pecorino
, finely grated (or ½ tbsp nutritional yeast mixed 1 tbsp milled seeds of your choice and a pinch of sea salt)

For the hummus
1 x 400g tin white beans, drained and rinsed
75g frozen peas or podded broad beans, defrosted
30g toasted pumpkin seeds
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp tahini
2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar (or ½ lemon, juiced)
100ml light olive oil
50ml water
Sea salt
, to taste

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and line an oven tray with greaseproof paper.

Lay the bread fingers on the tray, coat with a good drizzle of olive oil, then roll in the grated cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning once halfway, until golden, then remove and leave to cool.

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While the bread is cooking, put all the hummus ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth, scoopable and not too thick.

Transfer the hummus to a bowl and serve with the bread fingers and chopped fresh vegetable sticks: cucumber, carrot, celery, sugar snap peas. Put any leftover hummus in a clean jar in the fridge, where it will keep for four to seven days.

Nena Foster is a natural chef and cookery teacher.



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