Here in the UK, we’ve been in lockdown for more than three weeks now, and it’s looking like (quite rightly) that it will be this way for some time. Aside from flour being impossible to source, we’ve been able to keep the food coming in (as an asthmatic, I won’t be stepping foot into a supermarket for some time, I feel) and it’s been fun experimenting with that we have and stretching our cooking skills.
The boy and I have both been stepping up our game (I’d say he’s doing better than me and yes, I love it when I don’t have to cook, but he is a much better cook than he gives himself credit for).
In light of the situation in which we find ourselves, I thought I’d share some of the things we’ve been cooking.
Baked Beans (Leon)
An excellent form of comfort food comes in the form of some rather decadent baked beans from Leon. You can find this recipe in their Leon: Fast Vegetarian book (which, at time of writing, is £3.99 on kindle and £13.99 hardcover). I am a massive fan of kindle recipe books, using the kindle app to read them – colour and all – on my phone or iPad (or occasionally in my browser, which makes blog post writing really easy). It’s certainly more convenient than having all the physical copies (and don’t be mistaken, I have many physical cook books too…)
So while these baked beans are, technically, vegetarian (and gluten, wheat and dairy free) and I can’t find a non-vegan ingredient in there, which is great. The boy and I, however, are none of the above, and we made it as a light supper, complete with a fried egg (made by boy as I can’t fry an egg to save my life) and some leftover chorizo and salami. We also threw in some smoked paprika while cooking.
I really want to add some cubes of chorizo into this next time I cook it, and I can see it being a great base for a stew as well – adding celery to it is also another future plan. We have an abundance of celery and I’m not remotely mad about it.
Sourdough (Bake With Maria)
For my 30th birthday last year (that’s very odd to look at… when did 30 happen…) my brother and sister-in-law gave me a voucher for a baking class with Bake With Maria. I’m a pretty competent baker, but bread has always been my achilles heel, so I decided to go for the Sourdough class.
It was fantastic. Maria herself is the loveliest human ever, the others baking with me that day were so kind and brilliant to have a chat with, and I came home with three loaves of bread and some starters (speaking of, I really need to go and feed them…). If you’re in London, I highly recommend purchasing class vouchers from her website so that you can give yourself a post-isolation treat. She runs so many classes, so there’ll be something for everyone!
My at-home bread-baking practice has been a little less successful, but I’m slowly getting there, and I’ve nailed the Pain Rustique. Every time I get closer. Sadly, as my flour supply is about to run out with no replenishment in sight, my bread journey may well imminently be on pause. Until then, here are some snaps of the good bits:
Chilli Con Carne
This is an ultimate comfort food classic, and a really easy lazy meal. I’m that lazy person who throws it all in a pot and hopes for the best. This time, I actually followed the instructions of the packet (yes, I’m that lazy too, but I promise I can make if from scratch if I need to – I had to in Korea). The only thing I switched up was the use of butter beans rather than kidney beans. Butter beans add a different texture to the chilli, and I find I prefer them to the more commonly used kidney beans.
This one I served with sweet potato mash – we had (and still have) a dearth of potatoes. I’ve kind of reached my potato limit, but mash is – generally – always a good time.
I’ve never made a cottage pie quite like this before. I was working with what we had in the cupboard/fridge and I found a recipe for which we had every ingredient, and then I proceeded not to follow it all that much and make it up as I went along (see my fudged recipe below).
We threw some veg on once this was out of the oven to get some additional greens in there, and there was a rouge parsnip that needed eating included in the mash.
I headed over to the BBC good food website for this recipe (did anyone else know that this is an app, also…) and was all ready to make it, only to realise that I had neither celery nor red onions. This was pre-lockdown (and we’ve made it again since, hence the inclusion), and I went off to find the ingredients to find no celery anywhere… of all the things to clear off shelves.
Anyway, my way around it was to replace the celery with pak choi (an amazing substitution) and it looked so good in the slow cooker I had to take a before picture.
This casserole tasted amazing (yes, we had a lot of potatoes to use up…) and has been an excellent vegetable facilitator and comfort food – if any time is the time for comfort food, it’s now!
In a later sausage casserole (also BBC good food, slightly different recipe), the chopped tomatoes were forgotten. It was actually a refreshing change to a casserole, proving that you don’t always need the tomato, and it works amazingly on it’s own. If you’re going to do this, make sure you’re using hella good sausages. Ours were great quality with minimal fat and gristle.
The whole nation and then some has taken up baking as a hobby. I’ve actually done less baking than I would like, but then a) I don’t need it and b) I don’t want all my flour to go too quickly.
We ended up with a dearth of bananas, and of course the obvious choice of action is banana cake. I’ve been using this recipe for years, amending if here and there as I go. The most recent version featured gluten free self raising flour, which I prefer to its regular counterpart.
I used this as an excuse to get out my segmented silicone baking mold, just because. Also, banana cake has great edges, so the more “edge” surfaces, the better!
I can hardly be accused of cooking this, but breakfast can be – for some – the most important meal of the day. I take my feelings on this on a day-by-day basis, but try to keep good stuff in there, and granola, yogurt, yakult and coffee sets me right up for the day! I find myself eating breakfast more regularly now than I ever did before. It adds structure to the day – especially on a work day – and anything that gives structures is a win in my book!
What have you been rustling up during this lockdown? Let me know in the comments 🙂
But I promised a recipe, so here is my fumbled, but really rather good, cottage pie recipe.
This recipe could easily feed 6, but will stretch (or not) depending on who is eating. I have had to reassess all my previously conceived notions of portion size since moving in with the boy… boys are the worst sometimes. Good job I quite like the man!
Do remember that the ingredients listed are guidelines only. Feel free to swap them out for anything or everything you may have in your cupboard/fridge. It’s a mince mush – anything goes.
The amounts themselves are also guidelines. If you only have two carrots, no biggy. Once stick of celery, that’s fine. I like chilli’s and cottage pies, etc, as fridge clearers – they’re a great way to stretch out minimal ingredients or anything you have left.
- For the filling: a standard pack of mince (c. 400-450g) – theoretically it should be beef, but there’s nothing stopping you using any kind you like, quorn too!
- 2 onions, in small chunks
- 3 carrots, in small chunks
- 3 sticks celery, in small chunks
- 1 beef stock cube
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- a healthy squeeze of tomato puree
- 2-3 tbsp plain flour (this is for thickening, so if needs be replace with something suitably gluten free)
- olive oil
- boiling water
- worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper
- For the topping: Mash of your choice, enough to cover the ovenproof dish you’re going to use
- grated cheese, if you fancy
Heat the oven to 220°C.
Using a saucepan/wok or a stove top and ovenproof dish, begin browning the mince in c. 1tbsp olive oil over a medium heat. Before it’s fully finished, add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook for around 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and tomato puree and mix well. Add a splash of water, stir in, then add the flour – a tablespoon at a time, but no more than three – until you reach your desired consistency.
Add some boiled water, crumble in the stock cube, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, After simmering, the mixture shouldn’t be too runny, but should have enough liquid for cooking in the oven. I always eyeball this – go with your gut. I was once told by an artisan bread baker: “add as much as you think you need, then add a little more”. Before transferring to the the ovenproof dish, or adding the topping to the pan, add some pepper (no salt due to the stock cube) and a splash or two of worcestershire sauce.
When in the suitable dish, place the mash on top of the filling, working from the edges in. Sprinkle some cheese on top (and don’t be mean about it) then cook for 25-30 minutes.
Devour with any extras of your choice.
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