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Culinary Lockdown Lessons

Culinary Lockdown Lessons

So, here we are, 12 weeks after the Government gave us permission to Stay at Home! Most of the things we took for granted: the freedom to go anywhere, buy anything and see anyone were suspended. The pubs, cafes and restaurants closed, the streets were eerily deserted and an air of melancholy settled over the towns. But in the midst of the crisis, people came together to help others (even those on opposite sides of the now forgotten Brexit debate), social media came into its own as we all signed up to Zoom, Houseparty and Skype in order to keep in contact with loved ones. And suddenly, everybody, everywhere became an expert on making sourdough bread.

And herein lies Lockdown Lesson 1: I cannot make Sourdough. I’ve never had much luck creating a starter resembling anything other than a Quatermass experiment. They’ve started off well enough but soon disintegrated into a mouldy mass of goo. To be fair I have probably been less than vigilant with them (thank goodness we didn’t have kids), but with lots of time on my hands I thought it was a great time to battle my demons and get to grips with this dark art. I made a valiant attempt and some bubbles appeared at one point (more to do with vigorous whisking than it turning into some kind of primordial soup) but despite seeking out the advice of many experts I didn’t manage anything other than a very disappointing, solid doorstop! So early on in Lockdown I simply gave up … especially when I discovered that our local shops actually had bread in them …

If you are more tenacious than me then do check out the following :

In order to restore my failing self confidence I fell back on my trusty cake making skills and was heartily relieved to see I could still cut the mustard in this department. So Lockdown Lesson 2: If in doubt, make cake, is exceedingly good advice. Even if I say so myself I turned out some pretty good bakes and even managed to impart my knowledge to hubby who made me a pretty damned good birthday cake (better than the one I made a friend the week before but don’t tell him that).

Blueberry & lemon friands

Lockdown Lesson 3: Everyone needs comfort food in a time of crisis. Time and time again during the last 12 weeks I was drawn to Instagram pictures of deep filled pies, plates of pillowy mashed potato, oozing toasted cheese sandwiches and bowls of pasta laden with glistening sauces. As well as comfort food I turned to those cook books that keep me sane in times of uncertainty. I may not have cooked from them every day but just reading a paragraph or two of Nigel Slater or Diana Henry slows my galloping heart down in an instant.

Having given up on Sourdough early on I felt I needed another challenge. So Lockdown Lesson 4 was: Learning a new skill can be fun. After gazing longingly at other people’s pictures I eventually purchased my own copy of Dishoom, determined to master the mysterious art of spicing and create my own Indian take-away. Before I even get started on the recipes, I will just say that it’s a stunningly beautiful book which takes you on a day’s journey through the streets of Bombay, and suggests places and dishes to eat and drink on the way. Some recipes are quite complicated and the list of ingredients can seem a little overwhelming. You also have to make sure you read the recipe closely a few days before you plan to make the dish, as they sometimes throw in something like “1 portion of Makhani sauce” which in itself is a morning’s work. But the end result … well all I can say is that hubby who isn’t really a fan of Indian cookery said “If every recipe is like this please make something every week“. So I am.

Lockdown Lesson 5: Local shops rock. Whilst online delivery slots from supermarkets immediately became rarer than a bag of flour (!) many local shops and organisations rose to the challenge. Many offered a home delivery service for the first time ever, some adapted their kitchens, opening hours and products to suit the changing times and yet others lent a hand in providing meals for the vulnerable within our community. I truly hope that once things return to normal, people will remember this and support their local independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes because without them this Lockdown would have been SO much harder.

And finally in no particular order, a few more pearls of wisdom:

  • Lockdown Lesson 6: A tidy spice drawer = a tidy mind
  • Lockdown Lesson 7: You can never have enough mini eggs
  • Lockdown Lesson 8: You will use those ever so pretty tins of random foodstuffs you bought whilst on holiday in Turkey in 2004
  • Lockdown Lesson 9: A cocktail is a good idea at any time of day
  • Lockdown Lesson 10: Sometimes it’s OK to eat toast all day in your PJs

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