Most airlines serve up unappetising meals in economy class.
Chewy, sawdust sandwiches with half-dead vegetables inside.
Bland boiled chicken meals served with chalky mashed potato or over-boiled rice.
Generally when you go to choose your meal in advance for a long-haul flight you are given a wide choice of meals -- Asian vegetarian, non-Asian vegetarian, vegetarian Jain meal, Hindu non-vegetarian meal, kosher meal, gluten-friendly meal, lactose-free meal, champagne meal (for birthdays), low salt meal, low fat meal, diabetic meal etc.
But for a vegetarian, no matter what you choose, you invariably get stuck with tasteless white gravy paneer and rice meal made at some godforsakenn restaurant in whichever part of the world you are taking your flight.
But the exceptions for me have always been just a few airlines -- like the South Indian breakfast on Jet Airways in the early days when the airline had just began, the scrumptious puddings on British Airways and the meals on Turkish Airlines and Emirates.
Both Turkish and Emirates offer an interesting selection of Middle Eastern food, lightly spiced and often tasty pastas, which go a long way for low-expectation vegetarians.
Emirates makes also very good Indian food. All their food is often so good that I write down what I ate and replicate it at home.
This Mediterranean Lentil Salad on Emirates was pretty yum and oh so healthy -- definitely worth repeating at home.
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
- ½ cup pearl barley
- ½ cup whole masoor or whole red lentils
- 1/2 cup cholee or a black-eyed white lentil beans
- Salt to taste
- ½ red capsicum chopped very fine
- ½ yellow capsicum, chopped very fine
- 1 tomato, chopped very fine
- 2 tsp finely chopped parsley
- 2-3 tbsp finely chopped spring onion greens
- 10-12 dried cranberries, chopped
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sumac, a tangy citrusy Middle Eastern spice easily available
- ½ tsp paprika
- Squeeze of lemon
- Presoak the masoor and cholee separately in bowls for 7-8 hours.
- Boil the masoor in a saucepan till soft but still firm and not mushy and drain and cool.
- Do the same for the cholee, drain and cool, but separately, since they have individual boiling times.
- Wash and cook the pearl barley for 30 minutes till firm and chewy but cooked.
- In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients lightly and serve as an accompaniment to a meal of pasta or sandwiches or with soup and bread.
Note: You might like to make additions of any or all of these ingredients: A few tbsp crumbled feta, ½ a cucumber finely chopped, 1 tbsp mango chutney, little pieces of iceberg lettuce, a few slices of jalapeno finely chopped and 1 tawa-roasted crisp pita, chopped into small 1-inch pieces.
Meat lovers could add ½ to 1 cup of chopped grilled chicken.
You might consider replacing the dried cranberries with fresh pomegranate arils or pieces.
For a Jain version of this salad, skip the garlic and replace the green spring onions with chopped leek greens.
What was the best food you had on a flight? Write to us at email@example.com with your name, location and details of the best meal you had.