As Covid rules relax in England, which foods should we be sharing?

The further relaxation of the rules around socialising for England and Northern Ireland cannot come soon enough for those of us who live to feed. But much as I’m looking forward to breaking bread with clean hands and dear friends, the British climate does not always smile upon such carefully laid plans: April is not generally a time of year for lounging on the grass with a salad sandwich.

If you’re meeting in a park and need something easy to transport, hot sausage rolls or pies are a great idea because the pastry keeps them well insulated, and everyone can have their own with no need to share utensils. Jacket potatoes are similar: stuffed and well-wrapped in foil they double as hand-warmers, and the same goes for flasks of soup – French onion, perhaps, with cheese to top, or a spicy south Indian rasam. Ask everyone to bring their own mug, and you won’t even have much to carry.

If you’re at home the options are almost limitless, but as we all discovered last time round, food does cool down surprisingly quickly outdoors, so it’s wise to choose something that is happy to be reheated if necessary. One-pot meals such as a vegetarian chilli are ideal – you can of course use meat substitutes, but I like the body that beans give the dish, as well as the smoky warmth of chipotle chilli, and a shot of earthy coffee as a Stetson tip to its cowboy creators. Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips and the usual sour cream, salsas and chopped avocado.

Kleftiko. Either bake it in the oven pop the meat on a hot grill to finish, or cook slowly in a roasting tray on a covered barbecue. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/The Guardian

If it’s fine, I’d dust off the barbecue: it’ll throw off warmth and minimise the distance the food has to travel to reach your plate. Greek kleftiko, slow-cooked lamb shoulder with herbs, garlic, lemon and potatoes, would be a fine choice for Easter – either bake it in the oven as usual and pop the meat on a hot grill to finish, or cook the whole lot slowly in a roasting tray in a covered barbecue, which will make your garden smell like a taverna on an Ionian quayside. It doesn’t really need any side dishes, but I never say no to a Greek salad.

Lastly, don’t worry if you feel a bit out of practice at cooking for others; if they’re anything like me they’ll be so glad to see you they’ll eat just about anything.


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