Mandeep is our food technologist, and the scientific and nutritional brain of the Dinner Ladies headquarters! We try to provide as much information as we can about what ingredients go into making up every dish, and what nutritional elements they satisfy. Mandeep’s job is to work out what we need to print on those labels.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Mandeep. Where did you grow up?
I’ve been living in Sydney for nine years now and I’m the mother of a beautiful five-year-old daughter. I grew up in a small town in Punjab, North India. I always aspired to be a doctor, but I happened to study Microbiology (close, right?) and ended up becoming a food technologist. Don’t ask me how – even I do not know!
What’s the best bit of your job?
I get to find out the chef’s secret… the recipes!
What’s your favourite dinner ladies dish?
There are so many that I love, but the latest one to top my list is definitely Turmeric chicken thighs with chilli sauce. It’s a dish that comes with a nice punch of chilli.
Are you a good cook? What do you like to cook at home?
I don’t rate myself as great at cooking, but I’m not bad either. Because I’m so busy, like many of us, I always look for convenient cooking. I like to use pre-prepared foods, such as seasoning mixes, and then I add lots of my own fresh vegetables and other ingredients.
My favourite food is Mexican and I make tacos quite often. Instead of beans in the taco filling, I sprout lentils at home by soaking them overnight. The next morning, I drain off the water and wrap the lentils in a moist tea towel for a day. Now that it’s so warm, it’s a good time of year to sprout lentils well.
What would be your dream job if you weren’t a Dinner Lady?
We have been told you are the ‘lunchbox whiz’! Can you share some of your lunchbox secrets with us?
I think the secret is to try to cover all the food groups. I like to include fresh fruits and vegetables, good fats, protein and carbohydrates.
My daughter’s lunchbox will have her favourite cucumber sticks and halved cherry tomatoes, and cheese and plain crackers for the good fats and carbs. Her favourite protein portions are definitely Dinner Ladies chicken nuggets or schnitzel, cut up into finger food size. If you have a non-leak bento box, you can include sauce for dipping, which adds extra interest.
My daughter is not a big sandwich-eater, but I make her an exciting replacement – a mini burger made with DL’s Japanese chicken, ginger and edmame mix.
Pick up some of Mandeep's favourite lunchbox fillers here.