Image: Isabelle Gray

Stuck for lunch ideas? Isabelle Gray gives her top recipe tips for the journalist who spends far too much time on Zoom.


When your working life is overwhelmed by Zoom meetings, lunch is often the sole moment of pleasure in the day. But if you’ve only 30 minutes to spare, thinking of a speedy meal that you haven’t made 1000 times already can be tough. 

Here are five lunch ideas you can whip up in half an hour whether you’re an angelic vegan, a nasty carnivore, or in between! Thankfully, they aren’t too crunchy – so if you MUST return to your Zoom meeting to munch, you won’t be muted by your outraged boss. 



  • Vegan ingredients can of course be swapped with meat/dairy versions, or vice versa!
  • All recipes will feed about two people – or just you, if the ‘hangry’ mood is too much.


Angelic vegans: Fry-up

A vegetarian fry-up is the breakfast of kings. Image: Isabelle Gray

25 minutes

What you’ll need:

  • Bread (for toast!)
  • Vegan cheese
  • Half a block of tofu 
  • One avocado 
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • About ten baby button mushrooms 
  • Half a tin of baked beans
  • A big handful of spinach (more than you think you need)
  • One Quorn sausage
  • Herbs and spices 
  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C, 396℉, or Gas Mark 6.
  2. Place the mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and a Quorn sausage (or two) on an oven tray and cover with olive oil and lots of salt. Once the oven is ready, place your tray inside and take it out after about 20 minutes – near to when everything else is ready.
  3. For the tofu, I’d recommend the brand Naked Tofoo. It says it doesn’t need pressing down, but I would anyway. Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper and place something heavy on top to ensure all the water is squeezed out before cooking. Feel free to add some pressure on it yourself – get out that frustration, and you’ll be back to fake laughing and furiously nodding your way through an interview within the hour. Once it’s dry enough, chop half of the tofu into bite-size cubes. Now, heat a frying pan with a drizzle of oil until hot, add the cubes of tofu, and start frying. I’d recommend adding salt, paprika, turmeric, and whatever else takes your fancy. 
  4. While that’s happening, pour your baked beans into a pan and add spinach. Keep it on a medium heat and stir continuously to get rid of excess juice. Now’s the best time to have a cheeky gander on Twitter to witness the latest disaster that is UK politics while you’re waiting for everything to finish.
  5. Get your bread in the toaster! Once that’s done, add a couple slices of cheese on top. 
  6. Prepare your avocado by mashing it up in a bowl and adding in lots of salt and some chilli flakes. 
  7. Plate up and you’re done!


Nasty carnivores: Chorizo pasta

Image: Isabelle Gray
Spice up tomato pasta with chorizo for a sustaining working lunch. Image: Isabelle Gray

20 minutes

What you’ll need:

  • Half a chorizo (if vegan, normal vegan sausages would be fine)
  • Spaghetti
  • Half an onion
  • Two small garlic cloves
  • Vegetable stock
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • Tomato purée 
  • All those good spices and herbs
  • Pasta water
  1. Finely chop up your onion and garlic. 
  2. Put your pan on a medium heat with some olive oil (or a touch of chilli oil if you’re feeling fancy).
  3. Add your onion and garlic to the pan and let that cook for a few minutes until you start smelling a juicy onion and garlic fragrance and the vegetables start to colour. 
  4. While that’s cooking, slice your chorizo and then cut it in half again to create semi-circles. Chop up any other veg you want to include, like spinach or anything that’s about to go off. 
  5. Add the veg and some tomato purée – about two tablespoons, or enough so that it covers everything that’s gone in so far. Let that do its thing for a bit.
  6. If you have the time, prepare half a cube of stock and put that to one side for a second. Make sure to thoroughly stir!
  7. Add chopped tomatoes. Mix through.
  8. Add all your spices and herbs and salt and pepper to taste. I tend to use the basics of basil and oregano, as well as chilli flakes and smoked paprika. 
  9. Add your chorizo. 
  10. Let the flavours soak in for a while. Then add your vegetable stock and give it a couple BIG INTENSE STIRS. High heat.
  11. Cook your pasta. When it’s ready, make sure to keep a tiny bit of the holy pasta water. 
  12. Add your pasta water to the sauce. This will help thicken it up. 
  13. Plate up and you’re done!


Angelic vegans: The CBA special

Image: Isabelle Gray
You can never have too many Quorn nuggets in the freezer. Image: Isabelle Gray

15 minutes

  • Half a cup of rice 
  • A quarter of an onion (or more if you are an onion appreciator)
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • One bay leaf
  • Six Quorn nuggets
  • Four to five heads of broccoli
  • A handful of kale 
  • Clove of garlic
  1. Preheat your oven at 180°C, 356℉, or Gas Mark 4, and then stick your nuggets in the oven for about 15 minutes. Laugh about the fact that you’re having nuggets for lunch, and embrace it. 
  2. When you have about 10 minutes left, get going on the rice. I am going to be particular about how you cook the rice – sorry!
  3. Put a pinch of oil in your pot and let it heat up on a medium heat. 
  4. Add a handful-size amount of finely cut tomatoes and onion.
  5. Add a cup of water. Add salt. Add a bay leaf. Add a clove of garlic. Keep on a high heat till the water starts to bubble.
  6. Once the water is bubbling, add HALF a cup of rice (THE SAME CUP YOU USED FOR WATER BEFORE) to your water. Mix it in briefly.
  7. Put a lid on the pot and let it cook for about eight minutes. Time to check your emails obsessively.
  8. Once the rice has soaked up nearly all the water, put it on a LOW heat. Give it a quick stir to make sure it’s not sticking to the pot. Now add your broccoli and/or kale on top of your rice to steam. 
  9. Once there’s no water left, turn it off but keep the lid on – the steam will still be cooking everything!
  10. Now that everything’s ready, remember to remove your garlic clove and bay leaf. 
  11. Plate up and you’re done! 


Nasty carnivores or angelic vegans: Sausage and bean goodness

30 minutes

Image: Isabelle Gray
Use up your veg drawer with a speedy stew. Image: Isabelle Gray
  • Three sausages (vegan or meat!)
  • One tin of cannellini beans
  • All those good spices and herbs
  • One tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • Peas 
  • One onion
  • Two or three small cloves of garlic
  • Half a vegetable stock cube
  • Three sticks of celery
  1. Drizzle some oil in a pan and cook your sausages while turning them occasionally for about five minutes until they start to brown. While that’s happening, cut up onion, celery, garlic, and any other veg you want to use.
  2. Once the sausages are ready, set them aside on a plate.
  3. Start cooking your onion, celery, and garlic in the same pan, until beautiful and golden. 
  4. Add your sausages back in (you might want to cut them up into smaller pieces so it’s easier to eat later), alongside your chopped tomatoes. Prepare half a stock cube in water and then pour it in the mix. Then add any spices and herbs you want – paprika is a must.
  5. Leave that to do its thing for about 20 minutes, and then add peas and any last minute veg. Once the casserole looks like it’s thickened up and tastes good, you’re good to eat. 
  6. Plate up and you’re done!


Angelic vegans: Buddha bowl

Image: Isabelle Gray
Eat well, eat mindfully. Image: Isabelle Gray

20 minutes

  • Half a block of tofu
  • Half an avocado 
  • Half a cup of rice
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Two Maris Piper potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Roasted veg of your choice
  • A dollop of hummus 
  1. Cut up your potato into small cube-shaped chunks, alongside any veg you would like. Season with lots of salt and pepper, and cover with olive oil. Get that in the oven for 20 minutes at 220°C, 425℉ or Gas Mark 7.
  2. Make your rice! Same method as the CBA Special above. For every cup of rice you use, use double the amount in water. Let the water boil before you add the rice, cook the rice on a high temperature, and once the water has reached the same level as the rice, turn it down to the lowest heat until all the water is gone. 
  3. While that’s happening, it’s time to deal with your tofu. Make sure any excess water is pressed out, then cut the tofu up into cubes, heat the oil until it’s very hot, and stir-fry the tofu on a high heat so it fries the edges but keeps the centre soft. Add soy sauce, smoked paprika, turmeric, and whatever else! 
  4. Prepare your avocado by mashing it up in a bowl and adding lots of salt and some chilli flakes. Embrace the fact that you’re basic.
  5. Now to put everything together. I’d start with a layer of rice, and then add potatoes and veg, then the tofu, and finally the avocado and hummus. 
  6. Done! 
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