My daughter started school yesterday. As I wiped away my tears and waved goodbye to my beautiful, beaming four year old baby, my thoughts immediately turned to lunchtime. Would she be able to open up her brand new lunch bag unaided? Would she remember to end – and not begin – the meal with yogurt? Would she be able to wipe her face clean and generally not get in a pickle? Who knows; Monday to Friday lunchtime etiquette – or lack thereof – is her own business now. But one thing I needn’t worry about is the contents of her lunchbox. She’s a good eater, and I am happy knowing I am sending her in with a balanced meal every day, presented in a fun way I know she’ll enjoy. As a vegetarian Mum, I am raising my daughter the same way. I am very conscious of protein and ways to provide it (I wrote an article about protein here), so several times a week I will cook her an egg-based meal. Eggs are a brilliantly easy way of providing a generous amount of high-quality protein. As well as being a complete source of amino acids, eggs also provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals including B12, phosphorus, riboflavin, iodine, selenium and vitamin D, which helps build strong bones. Eggs really do tick all the boxes for vegetarians and meat eaters alike – young and old!
My little one has been happily eating omelettes since before her first birthday. I have only recently moved on to baked frittata for lunchbox purposes as it is chunkier than an omelette, and I find she can hold it more easily. ‘Jumble Frittata’ came about because I regularly use a jumbled selection of leftover bits and pieces in this. Some diced potato is nice as it adds a bit of firmness and structure, but you can use up any veg really, as long as it is diced or grated first. Also, a handful of any cooked pasta, sliced veggie sausages or drained, tinned beans is a fantastic addition. Chuck it in! Just limit the total additions to roughly one cup, or about 125-150g. The weight will vary according to what you’re using, so it is easier to measure by volume, and I find a cup to be just the right amount for a 4-egg frittata.
Although this recipe can obviously be modified for adults (who doesn’t love a frittata?!), I have roughly based the recipe on the idea of one egg per portion, so I would expect to make four portions for my daughter from this. The cheese and veg additions have been measured carefully to provide portion sizes in line with government guidelines for 4-5 year olds. If you’re making this for younger children, you will naturally get more portions. With this in mind, there are a couple of baking options – you can either divide the mixture between four small tins (individual tart tins or moulds are ideal – I used hearts because I’m a sucker for a novelty lunch) or you can simply pour into an 8″ or 9″ square brownie tin, and cut into suitably sized portions for your child (or yourself!). Whatever tin you use, I can’t stress enough how important it is to oil and line the base of the tins with baking paper first. Just oiling the tins is not enough; you’ll need a chisel to remove baked egg residue – it’s like concrete! It’s helpful to know that frittata freezes well – allow to cool completely, and freeze individual portions between pieces of baking paper. Store in a ziplock bag or tub until needed and defrost in the fridge overnight before popping into a lunchbox. What could be easier?
This amount makes 4 suitably sized portions for the average 4-5 year old. Bake however you want them: Use four tart tins or moulds, make it in an 8″ or 9″ square brownie tin, or make smaller muffin-style frittatas using a muffin tin. Do not use paper cases as they shrink inwards and look awful as the frittatas cool; they are also very hard to remove – frustrating for little people! Oiling and lining the bottom of your tins is your best bet.
65g (1/2 cup) of grated cheese
A pinch of cayenne pepper (Optional! Very young children probably won’t appreciate it)
125 – 150g (1 cup approx) finely chopped or diced vegetables or a mix of whatever you please
(Some examples include tinned legumes, chopped tomatoes, cooked, sliced veggie sausages, leftover pasta, torn spinach, grated carrot or courgette etc. Here I have used 100g diced potato and 50g frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peppers, corn and peas).
Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Place the eggs, cheese and pepper (if using) into a large jug. Prepare the vegetables. If you’re using raw root vegetables, dice them and par-boil for around 8 minutes. Frozen sweetcorn, peas etc don’t need to be cooked first. When you’re ready, simply add the veg and whatever else you might be using to the eggy mixture. Stir together until combined. There’s no need to work it too much – in fact it’s best not to.
Pour the frittata mix into your prepared tin/s, allowing a bit of room for them to rise. Remember to oil and line the bottom of the tins first!
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they look lovely and golden and feel firm to the touch. Larger frittatas will take longer to cook than smaller ones so just keep an eye on them. Allow to cool before running a plastic knife (or something which won’t scratch your tins) along the edges to help remove, then store chilled in the fridge for a day or two or freeze in individual portions. Defrost overnight in the fridge before popping one into a lunchbox!