Be brave in the kitchen

We are in the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown and I’ve been procrastinating about how to start writing again. I wanted to avoid the cliches of Covid cooking and banana bread bread baking, but what I can’t avoid is that for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I actually have time. Time to enjoy being at home, to cook, to garden and time for myself. I thought that the lockdown would be difficult, but quite honestly, all I am missing is seeing my friends and having the choice to travel. And after all the changes and events of 2019, maybe this time is what i need to reset and recharge. 2019 was quite rollercoaster… a milestone birthday (a series of amazing celebrations), relationship bumps (happily all good now), a series of mini breaks and trips within Europe, teenage children issues and a job change after nearly 10 years. Seeing it all in one sentence makes me feel exhausted… ! Coming into 2020 my biggest concern was the teenagers GCSE and A Level exams, but those are now cancelled, which actually suits us all fine. What they will do between now and September is anyone’s guess, but for now, we are all at home and it really is OK most of the time.

Food and mealtimes are the more important now than ever. I’m avoiding the weekly supermarket trips so am reliant on my weekly organic fruit & vegetable delivery once a week, the thrice weekly milk delivery, supplemented by visits to our local butcher and fishmonger. Flour hasn’t been an issue since i discovered the ‘flour box’ from Doves Farms and its also making me venture into the Spelt and Rye bread making territory which I may not have tried before. We have less choice, but we also don’t need anything else. I have found that I am able to adapt recipes and create new dishes based on the ingredients that I have as opposed to going out and buying something for the sake of one recipe,

Instagram is often a source of inspiration for me. I love seeing what my foodie friends are cooking and we share recipes across the globe. One of our new family favourites is Pasta Alfredo with Chicken… shared by old school friend who now lives in USA. I have made it three times in the past 5 weeks, enhancing it with leeks and mushrooms and even asparagus, depending on what is in my fridge. Wings Wednesday aka Buffalo chicken wings on a Wednesday night is also a regular occurrence, served with some sort of tangy slaw made with carrots, apples, cabbage, kale or lettuce. Inspired by a local eatery, I then scoured the internet for a recipe which was baked not fried. The wings are marinated in Old Bay Seasoning for a few hours and then tossed in a mixture of flour with a spoonful of baking powder – makes them crispier apparently. Bake on a rack for an hour, around 180C for the first 30 minutes and then increase to 220C for the remainder. it keeps the meat moist and renders the fat making the skin crispy. Toss in a blend of Franks Hot Sauce and melted butter just before serving. If you want to make a blue cheese dipping sauce, just mash some blue cheese with sour cream, taste testing along the way.

Be brave… I’m normally a purist when it comes to food, but for now, I have learnt to improvise and use my intuition. At the weekend I wanted to use up some chard, and needed inspiration as its been a regular in my veg box for weeks. I found a recipe for Chard & Hot Italian Sausage pizza online – Bon Appetit I think. I didn’t have Italian sausages, but I had pancetta, Nduja and fennel seeds, so basically the flavours that I needed. The recipe asked for Fontina cheese – I mixed Mozzarella with cheddar, and used Grana Padano instead of Parmesan. I made my own pizza dough. My sons initial reaction was ‘Chard on Pizza??’ but he then proceeded to eat far more than his fair share.

So be brave, experiment, use what you have in your cupboards and fridges. Above all… take the time to enjoy it.

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