School Lunchbox Idea: Brown rice with cumin and broccoli, vegetable kofta korma

Brown rice with Packed lunch: broccoli and cumin, vegetable kofta korma and grilled salmon

Brown rice with Packed lunch: broccoli and cumin, vegetable kofta korma and grilled salmon

I am really excited to share this recipe for vegetable kofta with everyone. It is a-mayy-zing-ly scrumptious! If it were up to me, we would be having this on the menu every other day. I can have it with rice, flat bread, even on its own. Ouf, yumm-o. Who needs meat? But wait… didn’t the child say that he did not want any rice in his packed lunch? Right…

It all started last week, when dear son came home ravenous. Apparently he finished his snack and main lunch dish at the first break, and only had rice veggie rolls for lunch. He had to wait till 4.40 pm before sitting down for dinner at home, which was wolfed down within minutes. As a mother, I felt like a failure. Another plan had to be hatched. He obviously is going through some sort of growth spurt and couple that with the 15++ hours of swimming per week, we may need to put in more calories via nutrient dense food to fuel growth and recovery activity.

So, we had another minor consultation and I requested him to re-think the idea of having rice once in a while for lunch, (this was his deal breaker before.) He had really enjoyed the cumin and broccoli rice experiment last week so, he agreed to the idea as long the rice is not just plain steamed. Right-o! The plan is to go for wholegrain and fresh veggies for 55% carbs and vary protein sources to include more legumes on top of lean meat for fibre and other nutrients. The meals have to be broken down as well to allow for a steady stream of energy throughout the day.

So, this is what his meal plan looks like:

meal plan

From what I have read, a boy going through puberty needs about 2,400 calories a day  and an athlete may need an extra 500 – 1000 calories a day depending on level of activity – just as a guideline. However, it is important to also check the weight to track gains and losses and make adjustments accordingly. Whatever it is, I am pretty sure that if my child is continuously ravenous, he probably needs the extra sustenance. At the moment, I am aiming to provide around 2,400 – 2800 calories for him a day via 3 main meals + 3 snacks for days where he has 2 training sessions, and 3 main meals + 2 snacks on days with 1 swim session. We will see how we get on.

Mid-morning snack: Fruit salad and yoghurt. Wholemeal pesto pizza for post swim to share with friends.

Mid-morning snack: Fruit salad and yoghurt. Wholemeal pesto pizza for post swim to share with friends.

So far, since the the inclusion of the mid-morning snack, dear son seems to experience a higher level of satiety. I sincerely hope that we are on the right track.

Now, back to the yummy vegetable kofta korma…. I got the recipe from veggienumnums and with minor alterations, here is my version:

Orangey yumminess!

Orangey yumminess!

Kofta Balls (makes about 12 balls):

  • 1 egg
  • 200 gm sweet potato – grate fine
  • 170 gm carrots – grate fine
  • 1 small red onion – grate fine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I used Adabi curry powder)
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons  plain flour
  • salt to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying

– squeeze excess liquid from grated carrots and sweet potato.

– mix the egg, sweet potato, carrots, red onion, ginger, curry powder, oil and plain flour. Add more flour if the mixture is not sticking.

– roll into balls and fry on medium heat until golden.

Korma Sauce

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick about 1 inch long
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 80g  raw almonds, ground
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • prepared kofta balls

– heat oil to medium, saute cardamoms and cinnamon with onion. When onions turn slightly golden, add garlic and ginger. Stir.

– Mix all powdered spices and add a little bit of water to form a paste. Add this paste to the onion, garlic and ginger mix in the pan. Lower heat. Stir till incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of water and let the paste cook until thickened and the oil starts to separate.

– add ground almonds, tomato paste and the rest of the water. Let it simmer till thickens. Add salt to taste.

– When the sauce is thick, add the coconut milk and let it cook again til the sauce reaches the right consistency. Taste again and adjust the seasoning.

– Add the kofta balls and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Brown Rice with cumin and brocolli

  • 1/2 cup brown rice – cook with 1 cup of water and some salt (do this the night before). Let it cool.
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small brown onion – sliced.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

– Heat oil in pan. Add cumin seeds and onions. When onions turn golden, add the broccoli florets.

– Lastly add the brown rice and stir till all incorporated.


However, I must say, after all that cooking so early in the morning… this is how I feel like…

No cat was hurt in the taking of this photo... zzzz

No cat was hurt in the taking of this photo… zzzz


A compromise and breakfast menu


Sprint practice during morning session.

There have been many discussions at home as to whether morning swim training sessions should be incorporated, especially with the number of competitions coming up. Dear son is 50-50, I am more inclined towards “no” while the dad had a chat with one of the coaches who seems to think that it would help.

My reluctance has to do with the fact that he is already training hard every evening for 2 hours. He is only 12 and have only recently started Secondary School. I am worried that with school work, and too much training, he would be overly taxed. What if it affects his health and ability to concentrate in school? Can his mind and body keep up with the rigours of training and school?

Speaking to dear son, he vaccilates.  “Yes, I want to, some of my friends are doing it and they are fine…” then, “No, I don’t want to..what if I have lots of homework? What if my grades go down?” Argh!

In the end, after another consultation with the coach based on his own experience and another chat with our child,  we decided on a compromise – Dear son goes for morning training 3 days a week, but goes out of the pool early in order to get to school before 7.50 a.m.

It means very early mornings for all of us on those 3 days. However, dear son is happy and has requested to add another morning for this week, (if it is not too inconvenient for you, Mama – awww!) as the state level competition is this coming weekend.

As a parent, it is never an inconvenience when it comes to catering to my child’s passion and interests. However, it is more about trying to ensure that his physical, emotional and mental needs are met. If at times, I have to voice my concerns, trust me… It has very little to do with my needs. My objections were due to my worry that he would lose the time needed to do childish things. That he would strain limited resources much needed by his body at a time of growth. That he would miss out on some childhood experience and lack balance.

However, now that a compromise has been met, and everyone seems happy, we will focus on providing him with whatever is needed. The decision is after all, not cast in stone. If at any point it becomes too heavy and becomes a detriment to any aspect, the decision can always be reversed.
As a side note, I have to bring the topic back to recipes… Breakfast is an important meal in this household.  We are not big cold cereal fans, the breakfast is usually cooked and hot and was never an option. Prior to his swim session his breakfast usually consist of the following:

Oatmeal with banana and blueberries, 2 soft boiled eggs, a glass of fresh milk with a little chocolate syrup.

Oatmeal with banana and blueberries, 2 soft boiled eggs, a glass of fresh milk with a little chocolate syrup.

Recipe for Oatmeal

300 ml fresh skimmed milk

5 tablespoons rolled oats, 1 tablespoon Nestum

Pinch of salt and soft brown sugar to taste

1 banana sliced, blueberries or strawberries


Heat milk, add rolled oats. Cook till softened. Add salt and brown sugar.

Remove from heat. Add nestum. Stir. Add fruit.

If preferred, you can use honey instead of brown sugar. Add honey just before adding fruit.

A tale of the past weekend…

So, last weekend was the inter-school swimming competition, so the weekend was pretty chaotic for us. His dad and I donned our cheerleader hats and spent most of the two days with other swimming parents as we cheer our kids on, comfort them when the swims don’t go as well as expected, and generally be around whenever parental support was needed.

On a positive note, he managed to get 5 bronze and 2 silver medals for his age-group. He also improved his personal bests, which is what we were all hoping for.  As he has only been training with the team for about 3 months, we are really pleased with the progress that he has made. It is a balancing act for a 12 year old and requires some sacrifice and discipline on his part to wake up early on Saturdays to be at the pool by 6 am. There is little time for tv watching on weekdays as he gets home only at 4.30 followed by dinner, homework and studies before being at the pool by 6.45 pm and not finishing till 9 pm. The only down time he has is on Sunday and it is a really precious day for all of us. He gets to sleep in late, we get to have long lunches as a family and wind down a little, before homework and assignments claim his time again.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the kind of life that I want for my child. His waking hours are divided between studying and swim training. They swim anything between 4 and 5 km per night, sometimes at lap pace for stroke correction, other times sprints. The good thing is, I know this is good for his health. He seems fit, motivated and growing well. He sleeps well and there is little time for computer games, wii or ps3. The only thing I worry about is if he is going to blame me for a “lack of childhood” experiences when he is a grown-up. I guess, we just need to balance it all out as well as we could for as long as he wants to.

I was never a competitive swimmer, but used to compete in tennis tournaments as a junior player. As an adult, I remember the tournaments with great fondness – meeting up with friends, competing with others, learning to win and lose gracefully, playing fairly. The training gave me life lessons and discipline that were valuable throughout my school, college and working years. I hope my son will also learn good life lessons in swimming that he can carry through with him as an adult.