When dinner becomes the perfect lunch

Save the hassle and lots of cash by making one tasty meal stretch to delicious lunch box treats using clever hacks courtesy of the food editor

14 January 2024 - 00:00
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Seed-crusted fish bites
Seed-crusted fish bites
Image: 123rf.com/bartoshd

The last thing you want to do in the morning is to rustle up packed lunches for the family. Forget boring peanut butter sarmies and turn supper into perfect food on the move for everyone: serve the leftovers as is or tart them up with our clever hacks.


(you can replace the fish with chicken or beef strips)

Serves 4 

450g packet frozen hake medallions

250ml (1 cup) dried breadcrumbs, ground almonds (almond flour) or mixture of half breadcrumbs and ground almonds

250ml (1 cup) flour, well seasoned 

30ml (2 tbsp) finely chopped parsley or use 10ml (2 tsp) dried parsley or mixed herbs 

125ml (1/2 cup) mixed seeds of choice

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Oil for frying or use an air fryer

1. Cut each hake medallion into three.

2. Combine the breadcrumbs, flour, seeds and parsley in a bowl and set aside

3. Using two forks dip the fish bites into the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumb/flour and seed mixture to coat. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and refrigerate for at least 30 mins before frying. This helps the coating stick to the fish.

4. Preheat oil for frying and cook until the fish is golden brown on both sides or use an air fryer by preheating to 190°C if necessary. Line the basket with greaseproof paper or paper liner. Depending on size of air fryer, you may need to cook the fish in 2 batches.

5. Drain fish bites on absorbent paper and serve with coleslaw, chips or boiled new potatoes.


— Turn any leftover bites into a delicious packed lunch by adding a small container of seafood dipping sauce made with equal quantities of mayonnaise and tomato sauce. Include a fork and serviette. Yum.

— Make a fish salad roll or sandwich. Butter a roll or bread and start with chopped lettuce or lettuce leaves. Top with slices of tomato and pickled cucumber or gherkins. Add any extras you fancy. Top with fish bites: if too big slice into smaller pieces and finish off with dollops of seafood dipping sauce — equal quantities of mayonnaise and tomato sauce.

Go for green pasta
Go for green pasta
Image: 123rf.com/anna putynnikora


The power of green goodness makes a quick dinner and, with some pizazz, makes a great lunch box salad too.

Serves 4

500g spaghetti, or other pasta of choice

1 jar basil pesto or other pesto of choice

Salt and pepper

Zest and juice of 1 small lemon 

Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil for the pasta. Add the pasta and a generous pinch of salt and cook according to package instructions. Scoop out 125ml (1/2 cup) of water before draining the pasta, then return to the empty pot.

2. Add the pesto to the pot and the saved pasta water. Season, then add the zest and juice of a lemon. If too dry add a little extra boiling water. Toss through and serve immediately with shavings of Parmesan cheese.


— Cup of noodles: spoon leftovers into a bowl and soften with a little boiling water. Add a couple of baby cocktail tomatoes and extra shavings of Parmesan or other cheese. Spoon into a microwave proof cup and seal. Enjoy at room temperature or preheat in a microwave for 1-2 mins before enjoying with a fork and serviette.

— Make a pasta salad with the leftovers by adding cherry tomatoes, cubes of pepper, blocks of feta cheese, pitted olives — or any other fresh ingredients of choice — then a drizzle of French dressing and toss to mix. Taste for seasoning and pack into a lunch box with tightfitting lid, include a fork and serviette and voila!

Saucy chicken balls
Saucy chicken balls
Image: 123rf.com/mizina


A much-loved fave dish, this one uses versatile chicken mince, which makes a great alternative to meat balls topped with a quick homemade or use a ready-made tomato sauce. A feast.

Serves 4-6

Chicken balls:

500g chicken mince

Two spring onions finely chopped or 1 small onion finely chopped

250ml (1 cup) fresh breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper

10ml (2 tsp) mixed herbs

A dash of soya sauce or 15ml (1 tbsp) chutney

Oil for frying


1 onion, finely chopped

Splash of oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

30ml (2 tbsp) tomato purée or 15ml (1 tbsp) tomato paste

250ml (1 cup) chicken stock

A generous pinch of mixed herbs

5ml (1 tsp) sugar

Salt and pepper

1 bay leaf


1. In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients for the chicken balls. Mix well with your hands then shape into small balls the size of a walnut (wet hands make the job easier), and place on a tray covered with greaseproof paper.

2. In a large non-stick pan add a couple of tablespoons of oil and fry the chicken balls in two batches until just cooked through and set aside while making the sauce.

3. Fry the onion in a separate pot in a splash of oil until soft, then add the garlic and fry for another minute or two. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well to combine, and let it simmer for 15-20 mins. An option for a smoother sauce is to blitz it together using a blender.

4. Place the chicken balls in an oven roasting pan big enough for them to be in a single layer. Pour over the tomato sauce and just before serving bake at 160° C for 15-20 mins.

5. Serve the chicken balls over pasta, mashed or baked potato and add a green salad on the side.


— Slice leftover chicken balls, mix into a salad and dress with salad dressing.

— Pack any leftover mash around a chicken ball and it will make a great surprise lunch. Serve with salad or sliced cucumber and carrot sticks on the side.

— Make a chicken roll: butter both sides of the roll and spoon over a little leftover sauce on the bottom half. Top with sliced chicken balls, add lettuce, tomato, sliced peppers and another spoonful of leftover sauce over the top and enjoy.

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