Healthy lunches on a budget

2015-01-18 06:00

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Two of South Africa’s busiest mums took a few minutes out of their day to show us how the foodies make a lunch box.

What they come up with is enough to make you hungry for Grade 1 again.

In only a few minutes, they chopped, fried, blended and blitzed to create a simple, healthy lunch on a (relatively) small budget, proving that it’s easy to make something nutritious and delicious with just a little bit of thoughtful preparation.

Mokgadi Itsweng, a single mother of one, knows all about the difficulty of a healthy lunch box. Her son was diagnosed with chronic asthma at birth and it’s this, she says, that forced her to think about food in a different way. As a restauranteur, caterer, magazine food editor, radio host, consultant and teacher, the culinary world is her oyster and this, combined with her entrepreneurial spirit, has made her one of the most creative and inventive chefs in the industry. I went straight home to make her hibiscus iced tea – a fruity, aromatic juice perfect for a hot day.

Honeybush and lemon iced tea

Makes 1 litre


1 tablespoon loose leaf honeybush tea

1 litre water

Juice of 1 lemon

50g Xylitol or honey

4 slices of lemon


1. Put the tea leaves in a pot with the water, bring to a slow boil for five minutes, remove from heat and allow to steep for a further 10 minutes

2. Sieve the tea into a jug, add lemon juice and honey

3. Place in the fridge to cool

4. Serve cold

Pulled chicken sandwiches

Serves 2


100g leftover chicken, shredded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 spring onion, sliced

½ red pepper, sliced

80ml tomato relish

2 seeded rolls

lettuce, shredded


1. Heat oil, add onion and peppers, cook for five minutes, until soft

2. Add chicken and cook through for two mins

3. Add tomato relish and cook for a further three minutes. Set aside to cool

4. Slice rolls in half, line the bottom half with lettuce. Top with chicken and eat

Date and coconut balls

Makes 20 balls


12 Medjool dates, chopped

50g shaved coconut

20g seed and nut mix

20g desiccated coconut


1. Blend the dates and shaved coconut together, remove from blender and place inside a bowl

2. Add the seed mix to the dates

3. Using a teaspoon, scoop the date and coconut mixture and roll it into balls

4. Roll the balls into the desiccated coconut

5. Refrigerate date balls for 30 minutes before serving

Vicky Crease is no stranger to lunch on a budget. When I ask this celebrity caterer what her favourite school lunch is, she says: “Polony sandwiches.” Her story is a classic tale of rags to riches built on her family’s shared love of food.

At her glamorous offices in Rosebank, Joburg, she pulls out a tiffin-style lunch box that even she admits is nowhere near what she gives her kids for school. But, she advises, “kids eat with their eyes first, so make it interesting”. Her chicken wrap is one of the most delicious I have ever eaten and would make a delicious lunch for the whole family.

Chicken wraps with basil mayo

To prep: 35 min

To cook: 25 min

Servings: 4


2 (400g) chicken breast fillets

1 teaspoon chicken seasoning

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup egg mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

1 tablespoon finely chopped basil

200g baby lettuce leaves

1 cucumber diced

250g tomatoes diced

8 flour tortillas


1. Preheat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat

2. Cook the chicken breast for four minutes on each side or until golden brown

3. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce, coriander and basil in a bowl. Place lettuce, tomato and cucumber in bowl

4. Heat tortillas in microwave, thinly slice the chicken, place in bowl

5. Serve chicken with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, tortillas and mayonnaise mixture

Caramel popcorn

To prep: 5 min

To cook: 25 min

Servings: 14 cups


¼ cup vegetable oil

½ cup popping corn


125g butter, chopped

¾ cup white sugar

2 tablespoons honey


1. Line a tray with baking paper. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add two pieces of popping corn. If corn slowly turns around in a circle, the oil is hot enough

2. Add remaining popping corn. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. When corn starts popping, shake saucepan gently. Remove from heat when corn starts popping. Transfer to large bowl, discarding any unpopped corn

3. Make caramel: combine butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring, for five to seven minutes or until sugar has dissolved. Bring mixture to the boil, uncovered, without stirring, for five to eight minutes or until light gold

4. Remove from heat. Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and stir until popcorn is coated. Spread over prepared tray and set aside to cool.

5. Break into pieces. Serve.

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