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So THAT’S the secret of your high street treat!

Margaret Thatcher took a bite out of the newly invented M&S ready-made prawn mayonnaise sandwich in the early 1980s, pronounced it utterly delicious and middle class tastes were changed for ever. It’s still their number one best seller.

And when Justin Metcalfe opened his first Pret a Manger in London six years later, radically combining unusual ingredients between two slices of granary, it was nothing short of a revolution.

Since then, there has been no looking back.

As a nation, we usually spend in excess of £4 billion on pre-packed, shop-bought sandwiches — which is remarkable, given that it takes little more than 3.5 minutes to eat one.

Food writer Rose Prince has taken the nations's favourite lunch choices from the high street and made her very own versions of the dishes. Pictured: Itsu chicken teriyaki bowl

Food writer Rose Prince has taken the nations's favourite lunch choices from the high street and made her very own versions of the dishes. Pictured: Itsu chicken teriyaki bowl

 Food writer Rose Prince has taken the nations’s favourite lunch choices from the high street and made her very own versions of the dishes. Pictured: Itsu chicken teriyaki bowl

There’s a huge choice among the menus of the best and most innovative take-out chains, but it is well known that hungry lunchers are often creatures of habit.

Now, in lockdown, many are claiming that not getting their hands on their favourite lunch choice every day is like being made to go ‘cold turkey’.

So what is about the Pret’s chicken caesar baguette or Leon’s famous fish-finger wrap, for instance, that makes us crave them so much? 

Yesterday, IKEA decided to give their fans suffering from withdrawal the secret recipe to their famous Swedish meatballs, so I decided to lift the lid, or the top layer, on what exactly makes our favourite takeaway lunch choices so delicious and addictive.

I found everything I needed for the recipes in my local supermarket, so don’t be put off trying.

In some cases, such as Pret’s hugely successful crayfish and rocket sandwich, it just came down to very fresh produce — with the addition of a simple twist of lemon juice.

But others had some very surprising secret ingredients, with the result that they ended up tasting so good, they could pass for the real thing . . .

ITSU ORIENTAL SALAD BOWLS

Teriyaki rice bowl

This Teriyaki rice bowl takes 25 minutes to make and is a tasty alternative to the Itsu dish

This Teriyaki rice bowl takes 25 minutes to make and is a tasty alternative to the Itsu dish

This Teriyaki rice bowl takes 25 minutes to make and is a tasty alternative to the Itsu dish 

SHOP: £7.99 

HOME: £2.75 per portion

TIME: 25 mins

TROUBLE: Medium

SECRET TWIST: Miso paste

TASTE: Shop wins

Makes 2

  • 250g pack ready-cooked wholegrain basmati rice
  • 1 chicken breast, brushed with miso paste, grilled and kept warm
  • half a sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 2 tbsp frozen, defrosted broad beans
  • 4 tbsp teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander

Heat rice as per instructions. Divide between two bowls. Slice chicken across the grain. Place on rice with red pepper and beans. Zigzag sauce over the surface, then add seeds and coriander before serving.

Salmon poke bowl  

Also on the list is this salmon poke bowl which can be made using ingredients such as sushi rice and avocado

Also on the list is this salmon poke bowl which can be made using ingredients such as sushi rice and avocado

Also on the list is this salmon poke bowl which can be made using ingredients such as sushi rice and avocado

SHOP: £6.19

HOME: £2.05 pp

TIME: 50 mins

TROUBLE: High

SECRET TWIST: Fresh mint

TASTE: Home wins

Makes 2

  • 150g sushi rice
  • 1tbsp mirin (vinegar sugar mix)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 4tbsp defrosted frozen petit pois
  • 150g raw salmon, cubed
  • 2 chives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

For coconut dressing:

  • 175ml coconut milk
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ½ tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 4 mint leaves, finely chopped

Combine dressing ingredients. Rinse rice in a sieve. Bring to boil with 200ml water, cover and simmer for 18 minutes. Spread onto a plate, cool, then mix in mirin. Divide rice between two dishes. 

Put greens and salmon on top then scatter over chives and seeds. Add dressing and serve.

PRET-A-MANGER SANDWICHES

Crayfish avocado and rocket sandwich

This crayfish, avocado and rocket sandwich is a great lunch dish while in lockdown

This crayfish, avocado and rocket sandwich is a great lunch dish while in lockdown

This crayfish, avocado and rocket sandwich is a great lunch dish while in lockdown 

SHOP: £3.99

HOME: £2.77 pp

TIME: 10 mins

TROUBLE: Low

SECRET TWIST: Lemon juice

TASTE: Home wins

Makes 1

  • 60g crayfish tails, drained
  • ½ a ripe avocado, sliced
  • large handful of rocket
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 slices of bread of your choice

Scatter crayfish onto a buttered slice of bread, season then add avocado, rocket, squeeze of lemon juice and a second buttered slice.

Chicken Caesar & bacon baguette

Those looking for a healthy lunch could also treat themselves to this chicken caesar & bacon baguette

Those looking for a healthy lunch could also treat themselves to this chicken caesar & bacon baguette

Those looking for a healthy lunch could also treat themselves to this chicken caesar & bacon baguette

SHOP: £3.99

HOME: £3.74 pp

TIME: 30 mins

TROUBLE: Medium

SECRET TWIST: Yoghurt mayo

TASTE: A draw

Makes 1

  • 1 chicken breast, brushed with olive oil and grilled
  • 5 slices of smoked, streaky bacon
  • large handful of rocket leaves
  • 1 half-size baguette, split and toasted lightly on the cut side

For the yoghurt mayo:

  • 2 tbsp thick yoghurt
  • 1 tsp virgin rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp vinegar (more or less)

Combine yoghurt mayo ingredients apart from the cornflour and vinegar then sprinkle over cornflour and beat until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper, add a drop or two of vinegar to taste. 

Cut the chicken into eight slices across the grain and set aside. Fry the bacon, turning occasionally, until crisp. Layer chicken, bacon and leaves inside toasted baguette, adding plenty of yoghurt mayo.

MARKS AND SPENCER SANDWICHES AND SALADS 

Best ever prawn sandwich

SHOP: £3.60

HOME: £1.90 pp

TIME: 10 mins

TROUBLE: Low

SECRET TWIST: Sherry

TASTE: Shop wins

Makes 1

  • 70g cooked North Atlantic prawns, drained and patted dry
  • 30ml Marie rose sauce, with few drops of sherry added
  • handful cos lettuce leaves
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread

Add sauce to prawns to bind together. Layer between bread with lettuce, season and serve.

BLT

This BLT sandwich requires smoked bacon, lettuce leaves, a beef tomato and cayenne pepper

This BLT sandwich requires smoked bacon, lettuce leaves, a beef tomato and cayenne pepper

This BLT sandwich requires smoked bacon, lettuce leaves, a beef tomato and cayenne pepper

SHOP: £3.30

HOME: £1.12 pp

TIME: 20 mins

TROUBLE: Medium

SECRET TWIST: Cayenne pepper

TASTE: Home wins

Makes 1

  • 4 large slices smoked bacon
  • 4 large green lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices beef tomato
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

Fry the bacon very slowly, turning it, until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Layer the bacon on multigrain bread, followed by lettuce and tomato, then season with cayenne pepper and salt. Make sure sandwich is nice and plump.

Green & grains salad

SHOP: £3.50

HOME: £1.90 pp

TIME: 30 mins

TROUBLE: Low

SECRET TWIST: Cider vinegar

TASTE: A draw

Makes 2 portions

  • 200g cooked and drained quinoa
  • 100g cooked bulgar wheat
  • 2 tbsp mixed toasted seeds
  • 200g mixed frozen peas, broad and edamame beans, defrosted
  • 2 handfuls of rocket

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1½ tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp virgin rapeseed oil

Mix dressing ingredients. Put quinoa and bulgar in bowls, then peas, beans, seeds, rocket and dressing.

Pesto pasta salad

A pesto pasta salad, which would cost £2.80 from Marks and Spencer, can be made at home in just 40 minutes

A pesto pasta salad, which would cost £2.80 from Marks and Spencer, can be made at home in just 40 minutes

A pesto pasta salad, which would cost £2.80 from Marks and Spencer, can be made at home in just 40 minutes 

SHOP: £2.80

HOME: £1.67 pp

TIME: 40 mins

TROUBLE: Medium

SECRET TWIST: Pecorino

TASTE: Home

Makes 2 portions

  • 200g pasta bows
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp shaved pecorino
  • 1 tbsp pesto sauce
  • 2tbsp olive oil

Cook pasta till al dente. Drain and rinse. Leave to cool then divide between two bowls. Mix in spinach, add pine nuts and shaved cheese. Mix pesto with oil and pour over pasta. Season and serve.

LEON CHICKEN SALAD AND WRAP

Chargrilled chicken aioli

SHOP: £6.80

HOME: £1.77 pp

TIME: 50 mins

TROUBLE: Medium

SECRET TWIST: Fresh garlic

TASTE: Shop wins

Makes 2 helpings

For the aioli:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely
  • 90ml vegetable oil
  • Lemon juice
  • 250g pack cooked long-grain rice
  • 4 chicken thighs, brushed with sunflower oil, seasoned and grilled
  • 4 tbsp shredded cabbage
  • 2 tbsp defrosted frozen petit pois
  • sunflower oil and a lemon wedge

Put egg yolk and garlic in a bowl. Gradually beat small amounts of oil into the egg for a thick emulsion. Season to taste with lemon juice and salt. 

Divide the rice between two plates, place sliced chicken on top and top with aioli. Serve the slaw and peas on the side, dressed with oil and more lemon juice.

 Fish finger wrap 

Also on the menu is this fish finger wrap which would cost £1.92 to make from home

Also on the menu is this fish finger wrap which would cost £1.92 to make from home

Also on the menu is this fish finger wrap which would cost £1.92 to make from home

SHOP: £4.60

HOME: £1.92 pp

TIME: 30 mins; TROUBLE: Low

SECRET TWIST: Toasted seeds

TASTE: Home wins. Makes 2

For crushed pea salad:

  • 250g defrosted petit pois, mashed lightly
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp soya milk
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley, mint
  • 2 tbsp mixed toasted seeds
  • 4 giant fish fingers, defrosted
  • 2 white tortilla wraps
  • mixed salad leaves
  • large gherkin slices
  • 2 tbsp Tartare sauce

Combine salad ingredients and divide among two bowls. Bake fish fingers till crisp. Toast wraps for a minute then fill with leaves, 2 fish fingers, 1 gherkin slice in each. Add sauce and wrap up.

 

 

 

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