Congratulations on making it (nearly) to the end of January! It’s been even longer, colder and darker than usual but hopefully you still feel like you’ve achieved a little something. Tried a new recipe? Completed the SWS Release and Renew challenge? Kept a houseplant alive? Binged Bridgerton? It’s all truly an achievement.
Here’s a recipe to brighten this drizzly week and remind you that even if life is a little dull at the moment… at least it can still be delicious.
The mushrooms in this recipe can be swapped out for almost any other vegetable! I know some people aren’t fans of mushrooms or have had dodgy curry house mushroom curries that they might not be keen to repeat… I was one of these people. I’m not sure what made me want to make this recipe this week but I had a craving and a lot of mushrooms in the fridge to use. This would also be great with peppers, aubergine or okra (fried with the onion), roasted cauliflower or green beans (stirred in at the end like the mushrooms), or even with, dare I say it, some meat! Whatever your preference, this recipe will accept you!
Serves: 3-4 with rice or as part of a selection of curries
2 punnets of mushrooms, any kind, I used button and shiitake, a mixture of sliced and halved for variety, keeping some quite big
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped, optional
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
3 large tomatoes or a handful of cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can coconut milk
Chilli flakes, to taste
Heat a large frying pan on the hob without any oil in it. Throw in the mushrooms and toss for 5 minutes. This is a technique Jamie Oliver uses for getting mushrooms really nutty tasting and it stops them shrinking as much. Remove the mushrooms from the pan when starting to smell delicious and turn golden. Place in a bowl and set to one side.
Add a glug of oil to the pan and fry the onion until softened. Add in the garlic and chilli and fry for another few minutes. Stir in the curry powder, ground cumin, turmeric and ground coriander, tossing everything in the spices.
Add in the tomatoes, allowing them to breakdown slightly before stirring in the coconut milk. Season generously. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Tip the mushrooms back into the pan, stirring them into the sauce.
Serve with rice and top with fresh coriander and chilli flakes.
I’ve made a fair few batches of granola so far during lockdown and for some reason this was the best yet. It’s an imprecise science and everyone seems to have a granola recipe these days but hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as my family has been!
75g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
75g pumpkin seeds
75g sunflower or sesame seeds (or a mix of both)
50g unsalted peanuts, half roughly chopped and half left whole
50g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
2 tbsp peanut butter
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp honey or agave
3 tbsp maple syrup
100g sultanas (more if you like it fruity)
Heat the oven to 150C. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, nuts and seeds. Add more of your favourites if you wish and don’t worry if you haven’t got all of these ingredients – just make sure you have roughly 350g oats to 300g nuts and seeds.
In a separate bowl combine the peanut butter, oil, tahini, honey and maple syrup. I tend to spoon out all of the ingredients and then microwave the mixture, stirring every 20 seconds until the oil has melted and combined with the peanut butter.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir with a wooden spoon. Once everything is coated in the mixture, divide between two baking trays and spread out to a thin layer so that each tray is full.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add 50g sultanas to each tray, mixing them in with the oats.
Increase the oven temperature to 165C and bake for another 15 minutes until just starting to crisp. Return to the oven if you prefer it really crunchy but it is very easy to burn at this stage (it won’t go black necessarily but tasting burnt is the worst).
Move the granola around on the trays to stop it sticking as it cools. Leave to cool, then store in a sealed container or jar. Enjoy with natural yoghurt, honey and fruit (and some more peanut butter if you’re a big fan like me).
If food wasn’t already at the centre of your day, lockdown may well have changed that. My family are constantly thinking about the next meal as the next fun activity of the day. It’s one of the only ways to feel a normal sense of structure. I think we should fully embrace this obsession and make food in lockdown an EVENT. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours on food or trying desperately to find expensive, unknown ingredients in a long-queue-mask-wearing-stress-inducing trip to a supermarket.
I realise that living spaces vary dramatically, so I’ve tried to keep this as inclusive and universal as possible. Here are a few ideas for making the most of this turbulent time in the only way I know how:
Pick a country or an idea and roll with it! Recreate food from your favourite holiday, or somewhere you just watched a documentary about, even base it on a film. Caribbean night? Get the rum out and try your hand at making roti. Italian night? Make pizzas, buy pizzas, use it as an excuse to drink prosecco. Gavin and Stacey night? Anyone for an omelette…?
This does not mean that you have to be outside if you haven’t got a garden, all you need is to push your sofa back and sit on the floor, preferably on a rug for the full effect! Grab some sandwiches, maybe a pack of Quorn scotch eggs, crisps, hummus, a Pimms if you can track any down… the carpet is your oyster. It’s silly and playful but that’s the beauty of it!
I saw a post the other day about a life changing website. MAKE ME A COCKTAIL .COM. Incredible. Input everything you have in the cupboard, fridge and fruit bowl and it will tell you all the weird and wondering drinks you can make with ingredients you already have. It is very tempting to spend an evening doing this, especially when you don’t have to get up early for work the next day… what can I do with these two bottles of port someone bought us for Christmas? Let’s find out…
Some people are lucky enough to still have access to Deliveroo but I live in the middle of bittersweet nowhere. There isn’t a single local business that delivers to my parent’s house so if we are craving our favourite curry or Chinese takeaway, we have to DIY. There are a million and one recipes out there for all your favourite dishes and I’m sure your housemates will love you it.
Rotate who cooks
I do most of the cooking in the house and my mum does the rest but my dad and sister… is toast cooking? We challenged them to cook for us one night and they did such a good job with two delicious curries! I know families who have multiple siblings, all with different tastes and preferences and rotating the cooking is a great way for everyone to feel like you not only have some control over your day but also that you are introducing your family/friends to something they might not usually eat. Switch it up a bit!
Eat somewhere different
A bit like with the picnic, it doesn’t matter how much space you have. Eat on the floor, eat in the lounge, eat in the hallway, move your kitchen table, put a table cloth on it, take the table cloth off – do whatever your space allows for you to feel you’re having a ‘different’ dining experience. And dress up for dinner! I wear leggings and massive t-shirts all day long, let me wear a dress or a shirt or, god forbid, a pair of jeans in the evening. A change of scene is good for everyone.
Timeless time-intensive classics (slow cook that bad boy)
You don’t need a slow cooker to make your cooking a labour of love. Make a proper tomato sauce and cook it for 2 hours, make a hearty sew, roast vegetables whole (peppers, squash, sweet potatoes), make your own stock, put some effort into a lasagne recipe, make your own pasta, bread, pastry, anything! Give your food the time and effort it deserves.
Make something you’ve never made before
Choux pastry! Feel like you’re straight out of Bake Off and have a go at eclairs. Or maybe something you’ve never even heard of! What the hell is a sformato?
I had never pickled anything before lockdown and now I can’t get enough! Pickling gives you a project and everyone is in need of that right now, so grab some vinegar and a crunchy veg and experiment. Pickled red onion and red cabbage work particularly well and transform wraps, tacos, salads and rice dishes. I’m excited to try some cucumbers soon…
If everyone is going to obsess over food in lockdown, we may as well do it right! Please share any other fun tips and tricks for staying sane in quarantine in the comments below 🙂