The chef behind Eat My Lunch has a new community-minded cookbook

by Lauraine Jacobs / 23 December, 2017

Michael Meredith. Photo/Newspix/Babiche Martens

Eat My Lunch chef Michael Meredith has now produced a book with a focus on feeding mum, dad and the kids.

Michael Meredith is more humble and shy than many successful chefs. For the past 10 years, he has presided over the kitchen of his multi-award-winning eponymous restaurant on Auckland’s Dominion Rd. Here, influenced by his Samoan background, he delivers a distinctive cuisine that often embraces Pacific flavours and ingredients and is much enjoyed by diners.

He is also admired for his social conscience. Every Tuesday night, he offers a “dine by donation” menu. Diners eat knowing that every cent they choose to pay for their meal will be donated to charity. This initiative has raised thousands of dollars, benefiting a series of worthy causes. But at Christmas, Meredith is closing the restaurant so he can focus on other ventures, including that of consultant chef to Air New Zealand. His fine food will be limited to the airline’s business premier travellers.

Meredith has also been the creative chef behind Eat My Lunch, a social-enterprise business that makes hundreds of lunches daily for delivery around Auckland and Wellington. For each lunch bought, a lunch is given to children in 50 low-decile schools in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington. More than 570,000 lunches have been delivered to date.

Now, Meredith’s work at Eat My Lunch is featuring in a new book, Food for Good. Packed with ideas for fresh, achievable food, it’s a far cry from his sophisticated restaurant fare, but it will be welcomed by people looking for inspiration for sandwiches, wraps, salads, main meals and sweet treats.

With the Eat My Lunch team, he developed the recipes with family dining in mind, and there’s a photograph of every recipe. Many of the meal ideas, such as chicken and orzo paella, prawn stir-fry with noodles and a wholesome butter chicken, are from the business’s newest arm, Eat My Dinner, which also helps fund children’s lunches.

These easy recipes are from the book. The salad makes an interesting lunch or dinner, and the little loaves freeze well and are perfect for a rainy day or school lunchboxes.

Chicken caesar salad. Photo/Tamara West

Chicken caesar salad

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 long baguette or ciabatta loaf, cut into 1cm-thick slices

a handful rosemary leaves, finely chopped

90ml extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs

4 pieces pancetta

250g cos lettuce and radicchio leaves

1⅓ cups (200g) cherry tomatoes, halved

shaved parmesan, to serve

DRESSING

6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1½ cups grated parmesan

2 tbsp natural unsweetened yogurt

or crème fraîche

180ml extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Sprinkle the chicken and bread with rosemary, olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Place on separate trays and bake for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and bread is crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, place the eggs in a saucepan with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-6 minutes for medium-boiled eggs. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Peel the eggs, then cut in half.

Remove the chicken and bread from the oven. Place the pancetta on the tray that was used for the bread, then bake for 10 minutes or until crisp. Slice the chicken, roughly chop the pancetta and break the toasted bread into rustic croutons.

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl.

To assemble, toss the chicken, toast, salad leaves and tomatoes together, or use cos leaves as “bowls” for the other ingredients. Top with pancetta, eggs and parmesan shavings. Dress the salad just before serving.

Serves 4.

Mini carrot loaves

1¼ cups plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground allspice

½ cup sliced almonds

1½ cups grated carrot

⅔ cup vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

garnish: pumpkin and sunflower seeds

natural yogurt to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease 2 12-cup mini-loaf or muffin tins. Place the dry ingredients and almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

In a large bowl, whisk together the carrot, oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Three-quarters fill each tin. Sprinkle pumpkin and sunflower seeds over the top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a rack, then cool in the tins for 5 minutes before tipping out to cool completely.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Makes about 24 mini loaves.

This article was first published in the November 18, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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