Sick of cooking? Bored with your recipe books? Lucy Corry serves up some fresh inspiration for locked-down cooks.
If you've been the chief cook and bottle washer in your bubble for the last three weeks, you'll agree that it's no time for platitudes about the joys of cooking. No matter how much a person might love to get creative in the kitchen, the relentless tide of constant meal planning and preparation, not to mention the cleaning up afterwards, is enough to dampen anyone's appetite for culinary exploits.
While I can't help with the shopping, the budgeting, the queuing or the cleaning up (I'm busy enough doing that in my own household), here's a hopefully helpful list of ideas to save you from another night of eggs on toast.
1. A good start
Worried that you're not eating enough fruit and veg while confined to home? Knocking back Nadia Lim's Everyday Green Smoothie will keep scurvy at bay. If you'd rather poke a syringe in your eye than drink a green smoothie, Nadia also has a delicious recipe for a Peanut Butter, Cacao and Banana Snickers Bar Thickshake (actual Snickers bar not required).
2. Bread for beginners
Nelson sourdough guru Nicola Galloway wisely says that lockdown isn't the ideal time for beginner bakers to transform themselves into artisan sourdough makers - getting a good starter can be tricky at the best of times. However, if you want to give some kind of yeast-based trickery a go, ]Kate Marinkovich's multi-purpose dough is a great place to begin.
3. Really good cheese scones
Pre-lockdown, an ex-Wellingtonian now exiled in Auckland told me that it was "impossible" to buy a decent cheese scone there. Aucklanders, she said, had no idea how to make them. If that's the case, it feels like an act of public service to share this recipe for the Ministry of Food's famous cheese scones, via cheese expert Lucy Hoffman.
4. Luxury lunch
If cheese scones seem a bit pedestrian and your bubble leans to more sophisticated tastes, then perhaps you could convince the resident chef to whip up another iconic Wellington dish - Kelda Hains' famed kedgeree for a better-than-average lockdown lunch. Champagne optional, of course. In all seriousness, this kedgeree is a great dinner too (and if you have fussy small eaters, there are lots of bits for them to pick out and snack on).
5. Friday night fakeaway
Pining for some cluckin' good chicken? Try Laurie Colwin's Baked Mustard Chicken (I recommend using the equivalent weight of boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts) with this gorgeous mash and Emma Galloway's cabbage, coriander and sesame slaw. Admittedly making this feast takes longer than putting in an online order, but you don't have anything else to do, do you?
6. Something quick and vegetarian
No meat? No problem! This colourful take on Pad Thai is fast, family-friendly and can be adapted to suit what you have in the fridge or cupboard (pretty much any vegetables and noodles can be used). Don't fret about spiralizing the vegetables, just slice them all very thinly (in my opinion, life's too short to own a spiralizer) and leave out the coriander if you're one of THOSE people.
7. Sweet relief
I've been making Moosewood Restaurant's famous six-minute vegan chocolate cake for more than 25 years and it's a winner every time, whether you're making a cake for a special occasion or just have a lockdown cake emergency. The recipe suggests mixing the cake in the pan you cook it in, but I think it's easier to use a bowl. To turn this into a lockdown birthday cake, slice the cooked and completely cooled cake in half horizontally. Spread liberally with jam and then sandwich together with lots of whipped cream. The latter isn't very vegan-friendly but it is very soothing in dark times.
8. When simple is best
Many recipes in the three-ingredient genre are crimes against food. Pasta cacio e pepe - a holy trinity of spaghetti, cheese and black pepper - is not one of them. This excellent treatise and cacio e pepe recipe by brilliant English food writer Felicity Cloake tells you everything you need to know about this uber-comforting classic. Alternatively, try this vegan version (which uses cashew butter, miso paste and nutritional yeast) by Alexa Weibel.
9. Feel like chicken tonight?
My copy of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini's 'Jerusalem' naturally falls open to page 179, because we've made the recipe for Roasted chicken with clementines and arak so many times. Arak is an aniseed-based spirit like ouzo or Pernod, but you can just as easily use some white wine or vermouth. This is a 'chuck it all in the oven' kind of dinner that works every time and suits all occasions. Eat with something to sop up the delicious juices (bread, rice, couscous) and something green.
10. The special occasion dinner
We try hard to celebrate weekends in lockdown even though our options are limited. All that walking around the neighbourhood and extreme house cleaning is a great way to work up an appetite for something like Lauraine Jacobs' delectable porchetta with braised fennel (which should also supply you with plenty of leftovers for sandwiches and fridge-grazing opportunities). These roast potatoes are also a must-have (any leftovers can be reheated the next day, or refried with eggs, or eaten cold from the fridge). Bon appetit!