Claire Thomson’s recipes for back-to-school packed lunches | vegetables

black bean burritos

Make the bean filling in advance, then assemble the burritos as you go for packed lunches each day; my 15- and 12-year-old daughters take a small bottle of hot sauce to splash on when they’re ready to eat. These are also good served hot and freshly made.

Prep 10 minutes
cooking 45 mins
serves 4

2 tbsp olive or vegetable oilplus extra for frying
1 onionpeeled and finely diced
2 large garlic clovespeeled and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
ยฝ tsp dried oregano
Mexican ideally
1-2 tsp chipotle pasteor 1 tsp smoked paprika (or more to taste)
1 x 400g tin black beansdrained and rinsed
200g tinned chopped tomatoes (ie, ยฝ tin)
salt and pepperto taste
Juice of ยฝ lime
sour cream
150g cheese
(cheddar, say), coarsely grated
4 x 25cm-diameter tortillas
50g baby leaf spinach
1 small handful cilantro
roughly chopped
hot sauce
to serve (optional)

Put the oil in a pan on a moderate heat, then fry the onion, stirring, for five minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic, cook, stirring, for three minutes, until fragrant, then add the cumin, oregano and chipotle paste, and cook, stirring briskly, for two minutes more. Add the beans, tomatoes and a splash of water, bring up to a simmer, season generously, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the flavors have come together nicely. Take off the heat.

To assemble the burritos, squeeze the lime juice into the soured cream. Spoon a quarter of the cheese and a quarter of the sour cream mix on the center of each tortilla, then top with a quarter each of the beans, spinach and coriander. Fold the sides of each tortilla over the filling, then roll up, tucking in the edges as you go to secure the filling in the middle of the wrap.

Flatten each filled burrito a little with your hand. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan on a moderate-high heat, then lay in a burrito seam side down and turn down the heat to moderate. Cook one at a time for three or four minutes, until the underside is crisp and golden brown, then carefully turn over and repeat on the other side.

Baguette (or bagel) pizzas

My kids request these on repeat for their packed lunches. They’re so easy to assemble, and almost as quick to make as a sandwich. Add extra toppings as you like โ€“ ham, olives, sliced โ€‹โ€‹tomatoes, even pineapple have been known to make an appearance in our house. Use the best-quality tinned tomatoes you can afford โ€“ I like Mutti’s Polpa tomatoes โ€“ because, with the minimal cooking involved here, you need ones that taste good from the off.

Prep 5 minutes
cooking 12 mins
serves 1

3 tbsp finely chopped tinned tomatoes
salt and pepperto taste
1 big pinch dried oregano
1 small garlic clove
peeled and finely grated
3 tbsp olive oil
1 x 125g mozzarella ball
3-4 fresh basil or oregano leaves
to serve (optional)
ยผ baguettecut in half lengthways (or 1 bagel cut in half)

Heat the oven to 230C (210C fan)/410F/gas 6ยฝ. Put the tinned tomatoes in a small bowl, season generously, then stir in the dried oregano, garlic and a tablespoon of the oil. Cut the mozzarella into six slices.

Put the baguette halves cut side up on an oven tray, drizzle over the remaining oil, spoon on the tomato mix and arrange the mozzarella slices on top. Bake for eight minutes, or until the cheese has melted and taken on just a little bit of color.

Remove from the oven, tear over the basil or oregano, if using, and add a generous grind of extra pepper.

Roast carrot tabbouleh

To make this extra-speedy to put together, use roast carrots left over from Sunday lunch; failing that, you’ll need to roast thinly sliced โ€‹โ€‹carrotsat a fierce heat until softened. Tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur, but I’ve used couscous, because it requires no real cooking (just add boiling water and steep) and makes this especially easy. Some crumbled feta makes a nice finishing touch, as do a spoonful of yogurt and some pitta for serving.

Prep 10 minutes
cooking 8 mins
serves 1

60g couscous
salt and pepper
1 big pinch ground cinnamon
About 150g leftover roast carrots
roughly chopped, or 2 mediums, thinly sliced, tossed in 1 tbsp olive oil and a big pinch of salt carrots, and roasted at 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 for 10 minutes, until softened
40g dried apricotsfinely chopped, or raisins, or 1 fresh peach, nectarine or apricot, halved, stoned and diced small
30g toasted pumpkin seeds
1 small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves
finely chopped
1 small handful fresh mint leavesfinely chopped

For the dressing room
Juice from 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp olive oil
ยฝ tbsp pomegranate molasses
(or use extra lemon juice and a pinch of caster sugar)
1โ€“2 tsp orange blossom water
(optional, but recommended)
1 small garlic clovepeeled and finely grated
2 tsp ground sumac

Use a cup to measure the couscous into a container with a tight-fitting lid, and add a big pinch of salt and the cinnamon. Use the same cup to measure in the same volume of just-boiled water, cover the container and leave for five minutes.

To make the dressing, mix the lemon juice with the oil, pomegranate molasses, orange blossom water, garlic and sumac, then season generously.

When the five minutes are up, take the lid off the couscous and fluff it up with a fork to separate. Add the carrots, apricots, seeds, herbs and dressing, toss, check the seasoning and serve.

  • Claire Thomson’s latest book, Tomato: 80 Recipes Celebrating the Extraordinary Tomato, is published by Quadrille at ยฃ22. To order a copy for ยฃ19.14, go to



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